The Test of a Terrified Cook
Nothing is more intimidating to an amateur cook than hearing the phrase “My mom makes the best ___.” Suddenly a standard is set down by the greatest cooks that ever lived: Mothers.
On a recent trip to visit Jei’s parents I found myself face to face with his legendary mother of home cooking. I had heard stories and experienced his attempts at replicating her recipes but now I got to see it up close and personal. During our stay, a half a dozen meals, including Thanksgiving dinner, gave me a glimpse into the genius of her cuisine and a peek behind the taste buds Jei had developed.
It was a delicious and wonderful experience –right up until Jei had the brilliant idea of volunteering our own cooking. Of course to my luck the pork recipe up for judgement was one that I alone had mastered, leaving me to solo the endeavor. To top it off, because of the number of people at the house for the holiday, I had to double a recipe that already took a lot of work and preparation. Not to mention that if I botched any one detail, the meal could come out horrendous. The pressure was on.
Now, here’s the thing about my usual cooking at home: Jei and I absolutely love to experiment. But in the privacy of our own kitchen, there is the advantage of being able to mess up or throw a new recipe out if we want. And while logically I knew my loving mother in law would never hold failure against me, there was still a certain test like quality the task took on. I found myself with the desire to prove that I was worthy as a cook.
In retrospect, my anxiety was a comical dance. Running from one end of the unfamiliar kitchen to the other. A spice here, a knife there, a mixture of this or that. I would say it was akin to watching a chicken darting around with its head cut off.
At long last, the oven was filled with the beautiful meat that had been sliced, spiced and rubbed down with the bevy of herbs, dijon glaze and a lot of elbow grease by yours truly. When the aroma of the culinary concoction began to permeate the house I felt my nerves begin to calm.
Now all I could do was wait. The moment of truth came a couple hours later when we pulled the six-pound pork roast out of the oven and laid it out to be sliced. I admit I held my breath when my in-laws took a piece back to the table. This was it — and my father-in-law’s reaction was the first indication of success. A man of very stoic expression found himself making a face of satisfaction, his expression of enjoyment was enough to make my hopes rise a notch. My attention then swung to the other side of the table where my mother in law sat carving into her own piece of my creation. Internally I began to list off all of the ways this could go only for her words to silence my worry. “Well damn it, now I need the recipe.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as the knot in my stomach unraveled.
I had passed the test.