I learned to ride a bike at 18, I learned to drive at 24, learned to iron at 26, but I am still learning how to cook.
I don’t mean that in a “we’re all still learning how to cook, man” type of way, and definitely not in a “we’re all on our personal cooking journey, man” way: I mean basic stuff. I mean that until just a couple years ago, the most complicated dish I’d ever prepared was browning ground beef for Hamburger Helper or tossing pork chops in some Shake n’ Bake. I’ll admit that such “cooking” occured only on special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. For most of my life, I’ve gourmet tastes but barely even a fry cook’s abilities. I basically survived on canned soup, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos. I lived in some apartments for years at a stretch without ever once using the oven.
I had resigned myself to this. Cooking, like scuba diving or snake handling, was something mysterious and magical that other people did; people like my grandmothers, or chefs. Rachel Ray changed all that. There, I said it. Rachel goddamn Ray. I have no street cred whatsoever. I wish it could have been Julia Child, or Alton Brown, or some awesome maternal figure in my family, but no: one afternoon a few years ago, I watched Rachel Ray make some balsamic glazed chicken on the teevee and I thought, “Hey, wow, I could SO do that!” And I could, and I did, and since then I’ve been slowly, slowly, slowly teaching myself how to cook.
Being single and living alone this past year, I found I’ve been reverting back to my pre-Ray days. I am great about ambitiously buying healthy, delicious ingredients and letting it all rot, uncooked, in the morgue of my fridge. Without someone to cook for (or with), it is really easy just to get take out instead; there’s something singularly lonely about preparing something delicious that you know you’re going to eat alone, likely while standing over the sink. Screw that, though. The last few weeks I’ve made an effort to actually cook for myself and I’m sort of falling in love with the process again. Someday I will actually be the kind of person who can consistently throw awesome meals together with whatever I happen to have in the pantry.
Here’s something I threw together on the fly the other night when I had a friend over and we were too lazy (read: inebriated) to drive to Whataburger. It was damned good.
Green Chile Egg Souffle
4 eggs, beaten
2 oz cream cheese, softened 30 seconds in the microwave
2 ounces aged white cheddar, grated
1 cup hot green chile, chopped, preferably freshly roasted but whatever
salt and pepper to taste
Mix it all together and dump in some well-buttered ramekins or muffin tins or even a tiny casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35 minutes or until the tops are brown and poufy. Voila, culinary genius.