Cooking is the one chore I take pleasure in doing and it’s not just for the sake of eating. Whether it’s the simplicity of boiling water on the stovetop to turn pasta dough into succulent tender bits of goodness, measuring out the spices required for a certain dish or attempting to slice up the ingredients to precision, it’s easy to get lost in thought but every detail of the process can be admired.
I feel the need to add this disclaimer before I go on any further: I do not, nor will I ever, claim to be a chef. My self-described technique of preparing my food is garbage cooking. Not that I think it tastes bad, but I just throw most of my dishes together without consulting a recipe of some sort. If I have the overall gist of how to make something, I will make it and add in whatever else I fancy or that is nearing its expiration. I don’t plan on changing my ways anytime soon, not even to please the vengeful spirit of Gordon Ramsey.
The point is that you shouldn’t have to be a professional to enjoy something. It may make the process easier but just about everyone can cook to some capacity, even if it’s just scrambled eggs, or macaroni and cheese.
Think about the last meal you made. What sounds erupted from the pot or pan? The air filled with not only the sounds of bubbling or sizzling, but with the aroma of your desired repast. Was it sweet corn? Hearty noodles? Perhaps it was bacon you made this morning – did you cook it just enough to be edible, or did you fry it to a crispy perfection?
That’s what I really enjoy about cooking. The fact that I have a choice in my meals. Complete freedom to dictate what I want and how I want it. Growing up, I’ve never been a huge fan of meat and as with most American diets, I was raised in a family of carnivores. According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average American ate just over 222 pounds of meat each in 2018.
I haven’t sworn off meat completely just yet (the budget of a college student doesn’t always lean in favor of fresh produce), but I often incorporate tofu over chicken or beef to my dishes. You should try that at home too. Tofu is literally the Ditto* of the food world.
If I’m in the mood for something spicy, adding sriracha sauce or curry paste will turn that bland, pale block into the main attraction for your rice dish. Leaning for a tangy sweet sensation? Mix up your favorite BBQ sauce with Vermont maple syrup to transform the tofu into a snack that can appease even the biggest meat eaters.
Over the course of my life, I have owned one or two cookbooks and occasionally I will refer to the wisdom of Google when I need to create a particular dish. As I mentioned previously, my cooking style is rather experimental, but there are some processes I’ve learned that it is best to follow expert advice on.
One such example is the process of cracking open a pomegranate. This fruit is in season from September to February with prices ranging from $2 – $4 per fruit. Getting to the seeds can be a tricky process, but if done right, not a single seed will go to waste.
I start by removing the ‘flower’ on the top of the ruby colored husk. Once off, I divide the fruit into sections by carefully slicing into the fruit from top to bottom. I normally divide it into three sections, but any number of sections will do – the most important part is not to cut too deep, otherwise you risk damaging the seeds inside.
Moving on to my favorite part, which is also the most grueling. I dig into the sliced shell with my fingertips to expose the bittersweet jewels inside. The distinctive cracking sound it makes is horrifically pleasant (if that makes any sense). These seeds can be vengeful; however, as the juices they produce can easily stain. It’s best to submerge the fruit in a bowl of water as you tear apart the husk and pluck away the bittersweet gems inside.
It’s not a job that can be done on short notice. I estimate that the procedure takes about 10 minutes per pomegranate when done with care, but it is so worthwhile. Especially if you find breaking things to be therapeutic like I do.
*For those unfamiliar, Ditto is a pokemon