the last supper
March 30, 2008

It figures that the last two meals I make for myself before starting culinary school, I pretty much ruin.

The first is because I've been reading Heat, Bill Buford's close-up on Mario Batali's kitchen, and, in that world's hyper-macho vernacular, I want to cook the shit out of stuff. What that translates to in my tiny kitchen is butter I haven't so much browned as blasted beyond recognition, and which makes the metal in my sink pop away from its foundation when, terrified, I throw the scalding substance down the drain. (I melt plain butter directly over my pumpkin ravioli and manage to have dinner without injury).

Tonight I'm finishing my scholarship applications and have talked myself into the idea that cooking a leisurely late afternoon meal counts as inspiration not procrastination. I opt for a slow-cooked boeuf bourguinon and a beautiful, springy, mint-green pea soup with truffle oil I've been eyeing for some time. The preparation begins simply, but I'm in my head about the applications. I'm having trouble grasping that I'm really doing this, so articulating life goals is problematic. In short, I don't believe I'm a chef-in-training (as opposed to an burned-out editor), and therefore I don't believe that any of these fine institutions ought to offer me money. (These might be the same self-esteem issues David Chang is coping with, but at least I own a bed.)

One moment my top sirloin is happily braising away in a dark, rich, whisperingly sweet wine sauce. The next, I'm hunched over the computer tearing out my hair until I gradually realize I smell burning. Mushrooms, bacon, onions and beef are all caked to the bottom of the pot.

Of course most of it's still edible, and the crisped edges on the meat hasn't toughened the inside, but somewhere amidst trying to deglaze the pan while whipping cream into my not-nearly-as-minty-and-appetizing soup, I lose my appetite. I garnish my rice and boeuf bourguinon with cherry tomatoes and drizzle the soup with truffle oil, but it's all too much— sickeningly sweet, overpoweringly earthy, not at all the food I want to eat. I divide the meat and rice into lunch-size portions I can only hope I'll be able to eat later this week, then retire to my bed to mope: I can't cook; I can't write; I don't want to do any of this; what's the point?I'm still feeling petulant when I finally drag myself back to the kitchen to face the pileup of dirty dishes. I start by pouring the entire pot's worth of that icky, overly creamy pea soup down the drain. It's irrational, childish, something Mario Batali might do. I immediately feel better.

Tiny Kitchen is going pro.