Chef Rowland

“I can’t cook,” is the sentiment that began the story I shared at the end of last autumn’s Confab StoryLab. I was in a grocery store, overwhelmed despite the list I had made, completely uncertain whether slow-cooker lasagna would actually work. It did, crispy edges and all.

I got off track after that. Gathering the necessary supplies for one recipe was daunting, my kitchen was less than ideal, and the guy I cooked for didn’t stick around. (His loss, I now understand.) Several years passed before I started to get serious about cooking again.

I always had it in my mind that I’d take a course once I had enough time and money, but of course everything shifted sideways and plans got utterly derailed if not canceled entirely. I had the good fortune to find myself a stable job that paid a decent wage, and my take-out habits had taught me that I could afford a few meals delivered a week.

So why not learn something from them?

Instead of supporting Uber and its dubious practices of undervaluing both its labour force and the restaurants it delivers for, I chose to give a local company a try. My friend and mentor shared a leftover plate of pesto penne, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then I asked myself, “Could I make this too?” I got her referral code and gave it a try. There was a sandwich on the menu that sounded right up my alley.

I have since tried dozens of recipes, chopped onions and broccoli, and minced garlic. I have deglazed pans and sautéed green beans and made delicious sauces to get soaked up by bread and pasta and barley. Perhaps most importantly, I have shared those meals and the process of making them with a partner who constantly reassures me when I start to doubt my skills or my ability to interpret the instructions of a recipe.

Recently, I made the decision to include on breakfast or brunch in each of my Cook It boxes. My work schedule consistently gives me weekends off, so I moved my delivery time to Thursday and have saved my cooking for the weekend. This morning I made mini quiches with broccoli and jalapeños and breakfast potatoes on the side. I rounded off the day with eggplant parmagiana with mozzarella and fettucine. That young man with a slow cooker from five years ago could not have dreamed of being able to accomplish this.

My mid-30s seems like the right time to be able to feed myself something more substantial than Kraft dinner, and I look forward to a time when I can invite people over and feed them too. For now, I’m content to continue exploring and sharing meals with my partner, who has taken to calling me Chef Rowland. It makes me feel good. And since these photos have seemed to take over my personal Instagram, it seemed about time to give them a dedicated space of their own.

Follow @chef.rowland for updates on my cooking adventures, and be sure to watch Confabulation’s the Shortest Story IX for a tale of how I sometimes have to blunder my way through a recipe. I want to provide weekly updates here as well about recipes and feelings and the fullness of my belly (the eggplant parmagiana was ridiculously good), because it has been a wild ride and I’m not done discovering flavour combinations. I recently made my first Cook It recipe with rosemary, allowing me to sing “Scarborough Fair” as I had previously used parsley, sage, and thyme.

Next week is tater tot poutine (‼), a Mexican beef burrito bowl, and crispy panko French toast!

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