Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Cooking Club

Deb: I am not a member of the cooking club. I do have club privileges though because I married a cook. Which means I can use club equipment like the blender and the double boiler. But I don’t.

All my dearest friends are in the Cooking Club and I am treated to their wonderful culinary talents every time we meet. I LOVE IT! Every dish a mouth-watering masterpiece, and I always count myself lucky to have a regular seat at the trough. But sometimes, I confess, I feel left out. The club applicant whose credit rating didn’t quite measure up.

The girls in the club talk like Cooking Klingons spouting phrases like “sauté this” and “flambé that” and I nod and smile and double-check that the blade of the knife on the place setting I’m doing is correctly facing the dish. As I have said before, I know my way around a well-set table. And they appreciate it, make no mistake. They are all over me with the compliments about the centerpiece and my choice of flatware.

But I know that beneath the praise lays a pinch of pity. For although I love it, we all know that is all I can do. That, and chop––the lowliest of the bull-cook duties. Yet even when I am chopping, I can see them glancing over to make sure the veggies are the right width or that they are sliced on the correct slant. I start to panic and sweat, hoping against hope that the knife won’t slip out of my hand and slice the finger of this lowly chopper. So I finish my assigned duty and put the choppees into the bowl allotted to me and await my next instructions. I glance around to see the cooks laughing and talking about braised something with something sauce. They don’t even know I’m alive.

Is that a teaspoon on the table instead of a soupspoon? How could I have made such an obvious error? I rush to the table to fix the offending spoon. I am safe in my club. The Table Setting Club. Very exclusive. I am the only member.

Barbara: I think you won’t believe me, Deb, when I say: “I don’t pity you! This is envy all over my face! Those sidelong glances in your direction as you chop are not judgment, they are silent exhortations: Deb, for godssake, leave the food and get back to the beautifying! Sure, we want you to feel useful, but without your esthetic touch, the whole thing will be so … ordinary!”

As a self-professed member of the Cooking Club, I wish I had half your talent (and, frankly, patience) for a table-well-set. All that work in the chopping and braising and sautéing and, if it’s left to me, no lovely linens to set it off, no pretty posies of flowers or ornaments, no place cards, no elegance. I don’t even know where to begin. I hold aloft my platter of yummyness and stare at the barren table and sigh. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Deb sets not just a beautiful table but creates a spectacular environment. If it’s a special event, there is every known beautiful decoration known to man to adorn the occasion. Hell, you don’t even need to eat, it’s all so pretty.

But I will say this: I do love to cook. I love feeding people. I love the whole sensuous experience of it. And—Deb will vouch for me here—I LOOOOOOVE to eat. Beautiful table or not.


  1. I envy both of you. I love food well cooked. I love a table well laid out. But for the life of me, I can't bring myself to do either well :-(
    On days when I am feeling inspired, I can produce a meal that people praise, but most days, it is something barely adequate.
    So while you do the cooking and the serving, maybe I should concentrate on the real stuff - admiring.

  2. I was in, not a cooking club, but a dinner group, where each of us would host once a year and everyone brought a dish based on theme. I admit to loving both the cooking portion of the program and the decorating. My husband and I would go all out to create the perfect environment for our guests. We stayed in the group for about ten years then finally bowed out, but I have many fond memories of the dinners we had and attended. Talking about it makes me want to do it again.

  3. I, too, am not a member of the cooking club. I'm a member of the Enjoy Other People's Cooking club. I'm happy to set the table though, ambiance means alot with a great meal. Even as a cook, would you say that food tastes better when someone else cooks it?

  4. Cooking? Very, very fun. Cleaning up afterwards? Very, very UNFUN! Oh, for a magical self-cleaning kitchen!

    Do I dare bring up the yummiest culinary wonder there is, though? Deb may cringe because it involves paper plates and napkins and an extremely informal seating arrangement that usually involves several young children running around from table to table often with their shoes kicked off. Church covered dish suppers. My mouth waters and my tummy growls just thinking of the fellowship hall with those long, folding tables sagging from the weight of casserole dish after serving bowl after cake plate.

  5. I have to agree with Joanne -- food does seem to taste better when someone else cooks it. Why is that?! And Rayna, we will take all the admiration we can get for our efforts.

    I'm actually kinda envious of that dinner group, Megan. That sounds so up my alley. Too bad we live so far apart.

    And, yuck on the clean-up for me too. As Deb is shooting today, she may not have a chance to agree with you, Rigel, about the church dinners -- but I can vouch for the many, many she has hosted and enjoyed, paper plates and all.

  6. I grew up cooking so, I love to cook. I just like being in the kitchen. I did actually go to a Technical school for Cooking and it was great. I cook in my family and expcially around holidays, Like Christmas. As for setting a table, I can't do that to save my life and I have never been able to. I wish I could but I can't. I can cook some really good food though. If it would not have been for my grandmother teaching me at a young age I probably would not have gotten by.

  7. I giggle insanely at the phrase "Cooking Klingons"... just the image... lol! Anyway, I'm with you Deb. I'm such a cooking noob. I don't even try though. XD

  8. I'd like to have some of Deb's mad table-setting skilz. Please do a tutorial, Your Debness!

    Presentation makes a huge difference. I once served spaghetti and meatballs to friends for supper, but set the table as nicely as I could, tablecloth and all, and heard the next day that one of them had raved about what a good cook I was. I KNOW it was just the presentation that hoodwinked 'em.

    I don't particularly like cooking, but since I like eating well, I have to. My husband is the Can o' Beans king, but I get bored with food and like to try new recipes. Why do they always seem to require so damn much chopping? Gak. Sick of it all.

    If I ever make a mill, I'm hiring a cook/housekeeper first thing.

    Meanwhile, I love bread and since I have never found a commercial source for good whole grain breads, I have no choice but to make my own. The beauty of fresh-baked bread is that hot out of the oven, it doesn't matter one whit about presentation!

  9. I love the history of grandmothers passing on their cooking talents to the youngsters, Lyndsie. So beautiful. And, Adrienne, I laughed out loud when I read Deb's Klingon comment too!

    My Kateness, I think your spaghetti probably deserved its raves. And I've seen your bread on your own blog -- makes me hungry just thinking about it.

    PS My K, loved your comment on Hazy Days about how your mother taught you to allocate cleaning. That is a brilliant hint!

  10. This post reminds me of the scene in Pretty Woman when Vivian is getting silverware and etiquette lessons from Hector Elizondo's character. "And, sometimes there are three tines..." :)

  11. Since I just got my first place, I am eagerly awaiting being able to entertain those who have welcomed me into their homes during the last 3 years of college. There is a slight problm, however, I have no chairs. I got a dining room table but no chairs! The friends that have come over have been treated to my love of cooking, but it just wasn't the same sitting on the couches and eating off the coffee table.

    Rigel, I totally agree about the church dinners! My favorite part of the week is our Wednesday night fellowship dinners. Super yummy, and good friendship as well!

    For me, it's more who I'm eating with that I enjoy. It could be a grilled cheese sandwhich on a paper towel, but if it's shared with a friend, that's all I need :) Lovely post!

  12. Ruth: Thrift shops and yard sales. Plus, you get to have fun reupholstering the chairs in fabric that suits your taste or painting them how you like. For example, I reupholstered a chair in flannel covered in helicopters. ;)

  13. Just to tell you Deb you do set a beautiful place setting. The picture in your post of the dinner setting was beautiful

  14. I love to cook. But after all the chopping, sauteing, and browning I'm done in. As much as I would love a well set table, a lot of the time it's "theres the plates the foods in the pot and pans on the stove."
    I can't believe I just admitted that to you Ladies. I can just feel my mother, grandmother, great grandmother and on down the line shaking their heads at me. After they all taught me their recipes through the generations, and paced down the china. It's not their fault, they really tried.

  15. So here's what you do... both of you. Pour an over-sized glass of wine and be THRILLED that you have an excuse for group get-togethers fairly frequently. I married a cook--he's brilliant at it, but a bit of an ogre if I try to help... corrects me... criticizes my lack of timing when I'm in charge of dinner, treats me with baffled looks...

    Oh, I can cook certain things--I'm rather gifted with SOUP, because of a pub job I once had, but send me back in the living room with my glass of wine while somebody ELSE does the work--THAT is my role in this life.

  16. I love the variations of comments. We have cooks, kinda cooks, part time cooks, cooks who hate to cook, cooks who live for cooking and a few table setters. We are well represented ladies. Last night my husband had to go out and was going to cook for me. NO I said, just go and don't worry about it. I can cook for myself. The chicken was cut up and ready to go and the veggies were in a bowl God love him. Would have taken me ten minutes I heated up a cold piece of pizza instead. Just can't do it. But I did light a candle and placed on my lap a freshly ironed napkin. Watched "The Little Princess" with Shirley Temple and ate my no fuss meal. Heaven.

  17. OMG I want your husband.
    My ex used to love cooking delicious meals and serving them to me on a plate while I sat at my computer.
    Why did I divorce him, again?

  18. (Tried to comment earlier but Blogger ate it and burped out a nasty error message. Hopefully, this won't end up being a double post.)

    Deb! Oh, Oh, Oh, I LOVE A Little Princess!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!! I've read that book probably 500 times since I was in the 4th grade. To this day, I love that book!

    Ram Dass is my favorite character.

    When I was in my teens and college years, I'd give a copy of A Little Princess to each of the little girls I babysat regularly when their reading skills were a grade level or two below that book so they'd have a great piece of literature to grow into.

    Even better than the Shirley Temple movie and even better than the Leisel Matthew movie (even though the 90's movie has such a great soundtrack) is the BBC miniseries version from the 80's. The production value sucks, but the miniseries stays very true to the plot and dialogue of the book unlike the 2 movies. It really is the book come to life. (Plus, bonus prize, Nigel Havers plays Mr. Carrisford, so there's some yummy eye candy in there, too. LOL)

    *hums Kindle My Heart* I LOVE A Little Princess!!!


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