When M. mentioned she doesn’t eat pork, she instantly volunteered to just make do with salad and potatoes, the only two things I’d made without porcine ingredients. That’s ridiculous, I thought. Why would I invite you into my house and not feed you?
So while the rest of the crowd loaded up on pork, I went to work: I smeared half an albacore tuna loin (yes, I happened to have a just-thawed loin hanging out in the fridge – I’d planned to use it for ceviche but hadn’t had time to make it) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I stole an uncontaminated rosemary branch from the plate I’d arrange the pork on, chopped it up, and smeared that on the tuna while I heated a pan over medium-high heat. I seared the tuna, just a minute or two on each of its three sides, and quizzed M. on her likes and dislikes. I transfered the tuna to a cutting board, and dropped a spoonful each of whole grain and Dijon mustard into the pan (still out from making the potatoes), along with a bit more chopped rosemary and a glug of the white wine we’d opened before dinner. It bubbled away at a hard simmer for a few minutes. M. filled her plate with salad and potatoes, and I sliced the tuna. I turned the heat off, seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper, stirred in a knob of soft butter, and piled it all on her plate, first the tuna, still good and pink inside, then the rosemary-mustard sauce.
We slid into our chairs just as people were picking up their glasses for a toast, and it occurred to me that I was glowing – from the Cosmos Kim made, of course, but also from the excitement of making a meal from scratch, with absolutely no premeditation.
It’s one of the things I love most about cooking – how it sometimes forces a flexible, instantaneous creative process, with results that become tangible right when you see someone taste what you’ve made. (She loved it.)
It’s also something that this project makes me miss: I rarely walk into the kitchen, think what am I going to eat?, and just go to it. There’s usually a plan, however loose, and always a paper, a pen, a timer, a camera. In my head, this (unnamed, I now realize) project has become The Monster. In the span of more than nine months, it’s encouraged my kitchen creativity overall, but on some level it’s also stripping the joy out of what I enjoy most about cooking: the actual cooking.
I didn’t photograph this one – my glass was raised in a toast to our guests of honor, and I was reveling in having made something delicious without writing it down.