What is it about cookbooks? I flip through one and all sense of reality vanishes. The glossy pictures show a relaxed and smiling cook as she whips up something delicious for a small army in her state-of-the-art kitchen. I'm rarely relaxed when I cook, and the appliances in my kitchen plot against me, but yet, I think hey, I can make that dish.
I didn't learn how to cook until I was about 20 years old. I had some college roommates who tried to teach me Indian cooking, but they didn't know much more than me. Especially the one who thought if a teaspoon of spice is good, a tablespoon would be better. After sweating and gasping for air through more than one meal, I went and bought an Indian cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey. I eventually learned how to cook through trial and error. I use the cookbook to this day but I know most of the recipes by heart.
Last weekend I decided I was in a breakfast rut and I needed to do make something different. I flip through a beautiful cookbook that promises me a leisurely and healthy breakfast. My day would start out right. My time in the kitchen will be pleasant. No, spiritual. Downright sacred.
I really should have known better. The cook promised that the meal would take no more than 20 minutes but I was still preparing it after the hour mark. The kitchen looked like the cabinets exploded, leaving piles of bowls and utensils.
My stove now needs a thorough cleaning. Have you noticed that those glossy cookbooks never show the pile of dirty dishes in the sink? I have to admit that the breakfast tasted great. If it didn't, I think I would have had a meltdown like Julie in Julie and Julia. But I swear I'm more relaxed scrambling an egg.
Or, even better, pouring milk over cereal. The next time a cookbook promises me a Zen-like experience in the kitchen, I will remember the current state of my kitchen (which I'm still scrubbing down) and decide there is nothing wrong with a bowl of Cheerios. Do you have a favorite cookbook?