Talent and transferring it.
My wife is a very good cook with the added cross to bear of having had three sons all of whom have man-sized appetites for food and a hollow leg. Not an extra pound on them, but they all could really eat their own bodyweight on a daily basis if given free rein. That sorta stuff you really do have to manage.
She knows this, which is why she’d never feed them crap. They only ever got good solid grub and she always cooks enough for there to be a suitable reply to the invariable request of are there any seconds mum.
We all smell how good it’s going to be, so we pop into the kitchen and under the guise of some phoney conversation, start to literally pick bits out of the pan as she’s actually cooking them.
Spagbol, chicken curry, liver and bacon, beef curry, something ultra light-fried Mediterranean chicken, Chinese stir fry, battered pork champion medallions in garlic with a home-brewed sauce or just simply putting to imaginative use some bits which were left around in the fridge after previous meals with a little dash of vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar to add that extra zing.
She’s the real deal who can seriously work whatever’s left.
‘Go away’ is the polite translation of her usual response once she’s had enough of being surrounded by us lot crowding, mobbing and cramping her style. Kitchen chief boss at work and woe betide anyone who gets in her way. We nick a few bits out before she hits our hands with the wooden spatula she’s stirring things around with in the pan. You gorra wait for whatever she’s working on to arrive on your plate.
It’s an old game we’ve played many times over the years. We’re all used to fresh cooked food prepared from the basics, and she enjoys cooking. Beyond boiling an egg or an emergency fry up, it’s a skill I simply haven’t developed, but I think that’s largely a part of the division of labour a good man/woman relationship evolves into.
When the car’s broke, you’re the one expected to slither under it on a cold rainy winter morning and fix.
I’m your basic I can survive eating nothing better than flattened out two day old road kill type of bloke because I can get by on a lot less than most people. Anything upwards from that is just gravy on top. One or two of the lads are trying to get at cooking, but she has a raw naked talent it’s hard to match, but she’s teaching them or maybe they’re learning from just watching her at work.
A parent mafia routine we went through before each of them went off to university, and at her insistence, was not feeding them for their last two weeks at home. Instead, she taught them how to cook about five or six basic dishes which they had to cook for themselves or starve.
Tough love rolling into action.
She didn’t want her baby queuing up at some bloody chip shop every night for something to eat. It was the school of hard knocks for them, but every one arrived home at the end of their freshmen year without having dropped half a stone and looking like some emaciated refugee who’d been living on take away rubbish or skip diving for discarded scraps of food.
In point of fact, one of them even managed the cooking of a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for two floors of students in halls that involved him running up and down between the two floors co-ordinating the cooking of several turkeys because he was the only one of the brains as big as a planet mob who knew how to cook a damn potato, never mind a turkey.
I’m sure at some point she might actually have read a recipe by Saint Delia, but basically she got bored with all that stuff and decided to wing it from there on forward. She has a real feeling for it, adapts and overcomes, relying on an innate talent to come up with something delicious, which with the usual bias aside she invariably does.
On reflection, I think the term innate talent is probably a diss; it’s more about having a liking for and an inclination in a certain direction, and then having the stamina to work away hard at it to become better at it. It’s a craft you develop rather than some gift from God that just suddenly dropped into your lap out of a clear blue sky.
Don’t get the wrong view of the situation, she has a lot of other and seriously more commercially valued talents but I think it’s symptomatic of people who pride themselves in doing things well. They don’t do stupid, they don’t do sloppy, they don’t have days off. Whatever it is they’re doing, they go at it with a certain exactitude.
They might have a few blind spots, don’t we all, but basically they never go sloppy or lazy; everything they do has a real measure of care and attention to detail brought to it.
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