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September 28, 2014

Some of my favorite memories as a child revolve around the kitchen, in particular Thanksgiving and Christmas. In favor of the holidays, my mom and sisters would begin to cook, everything from bread and cookies, to birds and potatoes, to candies and desserts. The alchemy of cooking has always transfixed me. For years I thought I wanted to be a chemist, but it wasn’t elements I wanted to be mixing, but ingredients. The heat and aromas of the kitchen and the talent of the cooks was heaven.

Today, I’m too busy to cook. Earning dough has mostly taken the place of making dough. To be fair, a recent visit to my sister’s revealed how much her talent had grown, whipping up amazing meals from scratch, turning her kitchen into heaven—and she’s busier than I am, which I find convicting and humbling, but I love her so I won’t hold it against her.

I look forward to having an empty nest. Financial demands will lessen and my wife will be working by then, so the kitchen is going to be my playground.

Cooking is very much a religious experience. The various methods of taking raw things and turning them into cuisine are steeped in ritual. I’m Protestant, so my rituals are informal and less rigid than High-Church’s, but still rituals.

There will be some restrictions, though. I like to think of myself as an ethical eater. My wife says I’m just picky. Maybe so. My rules are simple.  Don’t eat anything:

  • Cute
  • Amphibious, or
  • Slug-like
  • (Insects are out, too, but I’m hoping that’s a given.)

Avoiding cute animals is ethical. I don’t eat veal, lamb, squirrel, horse or baby anything (except baby back ribs-which is worth culinary sin). Cows are cute, but they have to go through ugly to get to cute on the other side, so they’re edible. Pigs, very edible. Chicken, Turkey… also very edible. Duck? No, sorry. Daffy, Donald and the triplets thank me. I prefer my edible animals to live decently before they die for my plate, but it’s a big world and feeding everyone requires short-cuts, but still, free-range is better.

Amphibious critters, particularly frogs—no. Maybe it’s the slime.  Maybe because skinning a frog seems too much like pantsing a person… no frogs. Reptiles are mostly off-limits, but every now and then, gator bites are okay.

I don’t like slugs. Plain and simple. Slugs themselves, oysters, octopus, squid… all icky.  And octopus are way cool, so sorry, calamari, you are not on my list of yummy things.

I do love me some crunch though. My family adores Chic-fil-A, but until they get real crunchy nuggets, I’ll resist. After jackhammering my tile up one summer, I spent several days deaf as a post. I did not realize 99% of crunch comes from the sound. Deafened, I thought my potato chips were stale. They weren’t. I am now desperate to hold onto my hearing. Onions, however crunchy, are a problem. Onion crunch also has a hint of slime as the layers slide apart. I don’t like slime. I love Onion Rings, though. And unbeknownst to my daughters and wife, I do like minced onions. Braising and stewing will be on the repertoire, as long as my Magic Bullet minces the onions well.

I am destined to be a fat old man. (Please note, my daughters just changed that in their minds to be “a fatter older man.”)

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