Friday, June 01, 2007
Iron Chef: May 2007 = Strawberries
What is "Iron Chef"? Iron Chef has been described as a "game show", though I tend to disagree based on the fact that creativity and inspiration are what win the day, not just blind chance and regurgitation of facts. Iron Chef is a Japanese television show with the whimsical premise of an eccentric gourmand who has Iron chefs and guests chefs face off against each other. In each episode an ingredient is chosen as the theme for a meal of multiple courses. Crazy dishes as well as hilariously voiced commentary make this show entertaining, though unfortunately no DVD's of the show were available the last time I looked. If I could just subscribe to the Food Network, I'd actually watch TV.
At medical school, 5 of us started having themed cooking nights about four times a semester. While none of us ever went as crazy as squid ice cream, it was a fun way to get together and enjoy each other's company in a homey fashion. We never got around to having a competition since most of our houses didn't have enough kitchen space, but good times and good conversation were abundant. Since experience and good conversation are especially valued by Sunny and I, I'm hoping to continue the tradition in New Mexico. An added twist is to try and make the theme ingredient something seasonal. At some point in time we might add something like a conversation topic, and this last meeting we did a bit of origami. Hopefully Iron Chef will expand beyond the demesnes of Truc-Ha and continue even after I move on and out of Albuquerque, but I'll have three or more years to establish it, so we'll see.
Cooking, I've observed, is an artform that can be 1) avoided 2) dreaded 3) practiced daily 4) mangled. I personally do a lot of survival cooking that I use shortcuts to make tasteful and somewhat healthful. I have a lot of excuses. Part of my problem is that I don't really enjoy grocery shopping; going to farmers' markets twice a month is a fun and community-conscious alternative, but it doesn't provide for the rest of the month. I could go on, but sometimes I think about the philosophy of the endeavor. A cornerstone of daily life, I've often used the preparation of a nice meal as meditation practice. I don't chop well or evenly, but if I concentrate, it gets better, and I relax. I have to concentrate on planning everything out so that the scallops won't be in the pan long enough to get tough, and so that the salad won't wilt. I don't tend to have side conversations, and the house is usually quiet, waiting for the meal. The results are very concrete as well as mental. At the end of the two hours of standing meditation, I have a yummy reward for my endeavors. Either that, or my attention wandered, and I'm scraping the burned part off the chicken. As any meditation student, I also try to educate myself. This is a great justification for trying the cuisines of many ethnicities, as well as spending time at gourmet joints like Graze (thumbs down) or Ambrosia (thumbs up). Thus, I think that anyone can develop themselves as a capable cook (and should), and I'm have a lot of fun doing it for myself and with friends.