To Cook Well

Here is the essay I recently entered at  If you like it, please take a minute to vote for me.  Thanks!

     UPDATE!  I am hoping this link works to take you straight to my essay.       

   To Cook Well

   To cook well is to know the “blub, blub, blub” sound coming from the pot means the polenta is almost done.  It is to know by a whiff of still raw bacon that you have four minutes to go versus the slightly acrid smell that comes from pork gone one minute too long. It is the slapping sound of the bread dough coming from the stand mixer that tells you the gluten is ready.  It is the sense of karmic timing that allows you to go deeper and darker into that caramel color and then stop all cooking with a cool liquid only a split second before brown turns to burned.  It is the shake of a fry pan that tells you there is a proper sear.  It is the ability to reach into your mental rolodex of flavors and pull tarragon out as the right one to finish a sauce.  Now try doing all of that while in a  complex ballet done with three tatted up foul mouthed alcoholics, two cousins from Guatemala that have more kitchen experience than the manager but speak little English, and the green kid from culinary school who is still learning the steps in a space roughly equivalent to a walk in closet.

To cook well is a mandate that some feel in their soul.  Anyone can flip a burger.  But to flip a burger with pride, to want to serve the best damn burger not just to one customer but to everyone that comes through your establishment turns the cook into a chef, the restaurant worker into an artist.  It gives you the fortitude to soldier on through your third double shift, to work through the holidays of normals, to survive a night of too much tequila after an especially busy Tuesday left you pumped up with adrenalin making sleep all but impossible.

Cooking well demands that you supreme the orange, not just cut it into pithy slices.  Drives you to carefully sort through a pallet of lettuce for only the freshest bits.  Compels you to spend your rare days off looking for inspiration in farmers’ markets and competitors menus.  It is the animated expression that comes across your face as you talk about your latest version of sweetbread stuffed tortellini.

To cook well is a madness that takes hold of your soul.  Madness that turns scarred flesh into badges of honor.  Madness that turns transitory nourishment into memories of relatives long gone.  A madness that inspires dreams of a delicious future.

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