It started so well… good recipe from a well known chef… time on my side, no rush to get ready for work the next day, and the coup de grace, a good cut of meat: 5 lbs of pork shoulder, ready for roasting. It was a challenge I would accept willingly, looking forward to the experience in the kitchen, as I almost always do.
For me, cooking is not a chore. It is an adventure. A wondrous experience… an amalgamation of sights, sounds, smells and tastes, resulting in that unexplained phenomenon that occurs when the first bit of food touches the tastebuds, and they explode with delight. I love cooking so much, I even enjoy shopping for the food. Everything I pick up starts my mind racing… smelling the fresh herbs and vegetables, feeling the texture of the food. It is all too awesome…
I should have read the signs. Things were off from the start, and that should have told me to pull back. To pay a little more attention. Even to question my choice at this dish. Not because it was difficult: far from it. This was by historical standards, fairly easy. Not a lot of ingredients, slow cooking… kinda hard to mess it up. I even took out my camera and snapped pictures of the entire process (had a whole other post all prepared for the end of what I thought was gonna be a wonderful dish… I guess it happens that way sometimes…)
I layed out everything I was going to need, prepared my snacks (yes, I actually buy things to snack on while I am cooking. Usually a nice cheese and salame set), and poured the traditional glass of wine. Did I say that I enjoy cooking? Having swirled the wine in the glass to aerate it, I put it to my nose, and the aroma was acceptable. Deep cleansing breath, then the first sip… hmmm, not what I was expecting. Maybe it just needs to breathe a little more. I’ll let it sit for a bit, then see if it changes (it didn’t…).
I had planned the dinner to hit the table at a certain time, and for those that know me, when I have a time in mind, everything about me is glued to making that time, to the minute (yes, J, I do admit that about myself… I think I may be getting better… not by much though). I had a couple of setbacks early in the process, which told me that I was going to be later than I had originally thought… Sign #2…
Sign #3 was a little harder to define. For me and cooking, when I start the process, whether I have made the dish or not before, I can develop a “mental taste” for the dish. I know what I want when it is done, or at least what I think I should expect from the blend of ingredients. For some reason, I didn’t get that from this recipe. The bad part is, upon considering the various dishes I have made, this was not unlike another “success” I had a few months back. Still, the entire time, the result was going to be a surprise for me. That should have raised beaucoup flags, but I was too caught up in the experience to pay attention to them.
My experience killed a good cut of meat…
At one point, aromas of blended garlic, wine, and italian parsley were wafting through the house. Everything was smelling wonderful. The wine still was not pleasing me, but did go well with the salame and havarti cheese. I had followed the directions to a tee, browned the pork shoulder in what I had that was close to a Dutch Oven (I’m putting that on my birthday wish list), and started the simmering process. Everything was going according to plan.
Sign #4… the “heartbeat”, otherwise known as the aromas from the dish, stopped… I noticed it, realized something was wrong, but couldn’t bring myself to admit it. “Maybe it just needs more time. After all, it’s only been 90 minutes, and it is supposed to slow cook for a good 2 hours…”. I chose to wait it out, but in my gut, I was not feeling good about the outcome.
When the 2 hours were up, I reluctantly removed the lid. Normally, aromas would have been singing and dancing to me, and I would have been able to welcome the dish to the table. Sadly, this was not to be. There was no aroma. No signs of an appetizing meal. It was just a cut of meat surrounded in a sea of other ingredients that had as well lost signs of life.
I tried to save it, increasing the heat, cooking it longer, but it didn’t help. I was devastated. I get like that when a meal (or anything else) goes south like that. I was actually upset the rest of the night.
The only thing that consoled me, aside from the salame and cheese, was the fact that I didn’t have to let this failure define me as a cook. It was just one situation that went bad, but from which I will recover. I will even make the dish again, and I’m pretty confident that it will turn out well. This is a growth area for me, for it was always easy for me to define myself by my successes, rather than just on who I am: just a guy who loves to cook. So, very soon, I will be back in the kitchen, snacks and wine in hand, whipping something up that I have never tried before, just because I love it. It’s too bad for that one cut of meat, but never fear… there are others coming that will not suffer that fate 🙂
Lindsay and Jay cooked up something I must try, cuz it looks soooo good. http://funnyloveblog.com/2012/02/10/parmesan-crusted-fish-with-creamy-dill-sauce/
What we believe about ourselves, and other dumb things 🙂 at Life’s a Stage: http://estrella05azul.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/one-dumb-thing-i-used-to-believe-in-okay-so-maybe-two/
Gina is someone I admire, cuz she makes a point of enjoying her life and experiences to the fullest: http://www.gitanablog.com/