Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Less Talent

I've always been really good at faking that I'm good at many things that I am actually crap at. (Except math. It's not even worth it to fake anything related to math.) But the cold hard reality is that I don't know how to do everything, and I'm finally getting around to sloughing off those extra things that really have no place in my "realm of expertise." Like cooking.

I hate to shock you guys, but .... turns out I can't cook.

I know, you're like, "How is this possible? You come from a family of cooks? Braising is in your genes. In fact, I've had plenty of really good meals that you've made." And it's true, I used to be quite a good cook, and my mom and chef brother cook circles around each other every chance they get. We regularly debate roasting methods and copper-bottomed cookware at family gatherings. So basically, admitting that I can't cook anymore will make me a pariah with the fam. But somewhere along the way, my natural born talent got overpowered by the ease and convenience of Hamburger Helper dinners. What's a girl to do?

Now, before we get confused, I'm talking about cooking ... not following a recipe. I can usually manage to follow a recipe. What I can't do is create a recipe, or improvise on a set of ingredients. No matter how foolproof it seems, it's always destined for failure.

For example, on Sunday, I decided I wanted to recreate this salad that I had at Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, MI.
Warm Spinach & Wild Mushroom Salad
Fresh spinach tossed with aged goat cheddar, sautéed roasted pepper, leeks and fennel in a beautiful, nutty brown butter vinaigrette. Add pit-smoked chicken.
Basically, I would eat this salad every day for the rest of my life. And it looks pretty simple, right? Well, the whole thing just failed. It was soggy and boring, and a shadow of the salad I was hoping it would be. I was crushed because this wasn't just one failed salad, it was an overwhelming signal that I should just give it up.

It's actually quite liberating giving up these fake expertise of mine. Now I can have people over for dinner, but won't have to stress out planning a menu (not to mention trying to make a damn cream sauce - those are my nemesis!) And really, doesn't everyone secretly love Chicken Nuggets more than cannelloni?

What about you guys? Any fakers out there?


Camie said...

ummm..HELLO! I'm studying Interior Design, but taking a 300 level Criminology class, my bullshit meter has gone through the roof. Even more than it was last semester during American Lit. Oh and then there's the 8 years I spent working in banking. Sometimes I kind of think life is about faking it.

chef chris said...

hi Gretchen,

I am one of the Chefs here at Zingermans Roadhouse and I heard that you where having some problems making our spinch salad, I would like to help here is the recipe:

2oz sliced crimini mushrooms
2oz sliced shataki mushrooms
1oz chopped leeks
1oz chopped fennel
.5oz roasted red peppers
1oz of brown butter vinaigrette
1.5 oz goat cheddar
pinch of garlic
pinch of shallots
salt and pepper to taste


1) heat pan over high heat and add 1oz olive oil, when oil starts to smoke add sliced criminis and shataki mushrooms cook half way.

2) add leeks, fennel and cook till soft add shallots, garlic, salt and pepper, roasted red peppers, brown butter vinaigrette and goat cheddar cook till cheese starts to melt then add spinach quickly mixing till spinach is only wilted.

3) serve on your favorite plate and enjoy.

so here is the information please contact me if you have any questions 734-663-3663 I hope it turns out!!!