So, I have figured something out: if you haven't grown up cooking and don't feel entirely comfortable in the role of chef, there are two ways to learn things in a hurry. The first is to take a bunch of classes, I suppose, and then, over time, experiment with the things you've learned. The second is to cook, a lot, under pressure, with deadlines to meet and very high expectations.
The first two days of this class, the pressure made me terribly nervous and I made a bunch of stupid rookie mistakes. The third day, yesterday, I began to relax a little more and just plod through, steady and sure. Today, I was clicking. I was still feeling the pressure, but it was pushing me to make good decisions on the fly, to think, to take calculated risks. And I was learning. It felt good.
Today's lunch was really good, both tasty and attractively presented. Mary Beth's Bacon-Wrapped Chicken was the main event. What is not to love about chicken breast, pounded flat, spread with cream cheese, rolled up like a cinnamon roll and then wrapped in pepper-crusted bacon? Well, I suppose there is that cholesterol thing...but no matter; it was tasty. The pasta on the side was smothered in a sauce made from the chicken drippings, bacon grease and melted cream cheese--sinfully good. A tasty green salad and a fresh fruit kabob rounded out plate nicely. For dessert, there was a small bowl of mixed berries with a crunchy crumb topping and fresh cream.
At dinner tonight, Andy complimented me on the lunch spread. He said that it looked like it was professionally done. My son protested,
"What do you mean by it looked professional?"
"Well," I explained patiently, "it looked like it was done by a professional, but really it was just done by me."
"But aren't you a professional?"
"No, a professional is someone who gets paid for what they do."
"But..." His voice trailed off, questioningly.
Andy smiled. "I guess we do get paid for this. I suppose that makes you a professional cook."
A look of horror must have flashed across my face because at that point, Andy burst out laughing.
"Shouldn't there be some sort of an entrance exam or something?" I muttered, then joined him in laughter at the thought.
But it was a good day--long, but I did it. We finished lunch at 1:30 and I started the nearly overwhelming clean-up process while the kids got to their school work. Between all the clean-up and the helping kids and the checking on the guys, it was a looong time before I wiped down the last counter, looked around with weary satisfaction and decided I was finally done. I glanced at the clock on the microwave.
It was five o'clock.
My heart sank; it was time to get dinner going.
But you know what I did? I didn't despair. I made some sandwiches, sliced up some fresh veggies, opened a jar of applesauce, filled a bowl with grapes and set the table. When we were done eating and had polished off the rest of yesterday's
brownies, I did the dishes again--a small batch this time. Then I set out to get us ready for the evening's scheduled campfire. I put together a sampling of local microbrews and bottled sodas, found the marshmallows and went out to the fire pit.
Then I sat down by the fire and did nothing for two hours but stare into the flames and make casual conversation. That was nice.
More leftover baked goods are thawing for tomorrow's breakfast. The kitchen is clean and ready to go. I'm headed to bed.