Skip to content

The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Category Archives: Beef

So I’ve rebelled against my own blog.

I got a few days behind on the posting and then one night I was cooking and enjoying myself (which came as a surprise to me) and suddenly the thought of stopping to take photos ruined the pleasure (the pleasure I was surprised to be feeling in the first place) of the moment. And it dawned on me – I no longer wanted to prove I could cook, I just wanted to cook.

I’ve never wanted to cook before. My about page says so. And now I do.

I thought I’d keep the blog going for a year – you know, symmetry and order and all those things that make me feel virtuous but which I never quite achieve. Instead I think I’ll keep enjoying cooking – and if I stop enjoying it, maybe I’ll take up the blog again!

In the meantime, thanks to everyone whose followed it, welcome to those of you who just found it – it’s still full of great recipes and tells of the slow and uncertain progress of an unnatural and uncomfortable cook toward a less unnatural and uncomfortable one. It’s an ongoing project which, for the time being, will return to the confines of my kitchen.

Happy (and I mean that non-ironically) cooking to all.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Didn’t think we’d be eating at home tonight – there were readings in Manhattan and openings in Bushwick to go to and the family was splitting up in the various boroughs. But then I decided to ditch my reading and go with everyone to the art opening and so we had a quick camping dinner in the back yard: hot dogs, coleslaw, baked beans and potato chips! Like everything else this week it was last minute and worked out just fine.

Tags: , ,

The blog has really gotten away from me. I’m having trouble both finding time to write and figuring out what to write about.

It’s the middle and I hate the middle. One of my goals for grad school was to learn to get past the middle. I’m always excited at the beginning of a project. I can marshal fantastic energy to get something started. But then, when the dream of what I want to create runs into the reality of the faults with my creation, I have a horrible habit: I give up.

In order to prepare myself for my middle problem, I did something silly before grad school. I grew my hair out. It was about 2″ long and I wanted it to be almost to my elbows. When I was younger I had long, wild, curly hair. I thought maybe, for a woman starting over in middle age, it might be fun to recapture some of the spirit of my romantic youth. Growing my hair out required patience through long stretches of middle where I looked like – there is no other word for it – a soccer mom. Coming, as it did, in my mid-40’s it was painful. But I made it through, and now (with the help of some Clairol Natural Instincts #12) I have the hair of my youth.

But here’s what I’ve realized. Discipline is only 1/2 the battle. I have taught myself the discipline of sticking with a difficult project, of writing every day, of finishing a draft I’m struggling with. But creative discipline requires a flexibility to change the original idea to fit the reality of the outcome and I’m struggling with that in both my writing and the blog.

I’m afraid to stop posting every meal, every day, because I’m afraid if I give up on the original conception, I’ll lose the lesson of whatever it had to teach me. But I’m also afraid that if I’m unwilling to change the idea of the project I might be missing out in a different way.

I don’t know how to resolve the conflict. I also don’t know how to get this back to meatballs and spaghetti. Except to say that meatballs and spaghetti was one of the first meals that made me realize that I am more relaxed when I’m not using a recipe which was my first inkling that although I took pride in my Unnatural Cook status, it wasn’t necessarily serving me. I might, in fact, be happier as a Natural Cook. My suspicion is the thing that you don’t know you need to learn is more important than the thing you set out to learn. Which would mean that someday, I might have to be willing to be flexible and change my m.o. with the blog…..

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I thought there’d be more leftover meatloaf to make this shepherd’s pie but we ate so much last Tuesday night that I actually had to buy beef to add to it which felt sort of silly. It reminds me of my mother-in-law who used to throw a fabulous open house after Christmas called “The Leftover Party.” But over the years the guest list became so large that she began to have to cook extra turkeys and hams for the “leftovers!”

Anyway, I did use up the extra meatloaf and I added mushrooms to the shepherd’s pie for the first time so that was a nice twist on the recipe.

Tags: , ,

I should have known better than to plan a complicated(ish) meal like gazpacho and quesadillas on shopping day. That made no sense. Cooked the meatloaf and string beans instead. Also was critique night in which the thing I worked so hard on and is still so flawed was going to have its flaws discussed. Thus, the comfort food.

When I started school I told myself to make big mistakes. The kind that comes from taking big risks. Its so much easier to say that than to do that. When I handed the work in last Friday I felt so discouraged; but by Tuesday I was ready to hear what people had to say. Also much easier said than done. I still find it very difficult to translate critiques into forward motion. I think the critique confirmed what the strengths and the weaknesses of the piece were and I have a very crumpled idea of how to map out my next step but it is really, really difficult to get myself into the car. I wish getting critiqued was like filling an empty tank with gas, but it’s not. It’s more like taking your beloved old car to the shop to have the starter fixed and discovering the transmission is bad too. You fix it cause you need the car, but you really hate to do it and find yourself questioning if the damn car is really worth it in the first place.

Tags: , , , ,

Bacon & Ground Beef what could be finer?

A birthday BBQ at the Paulson’s. What not to love about friends you can shop for at the butchers? The birthday boy received a favorite “Bacon, the Gateway Meat” t-shirt and 2 lbs. of ground beef & bacon from Fleisher’s Butcher in Brooklyn. Eating well does take some of the edge off of growing old.

Tags: ,

Flowers from my husband, dinner cooked by my friend Pippa who watched my kids while I had a job interview. I am a very lucky woman.

Pippa is a wonderful natural cook and she made us all Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. She’s actually British so I paid close attention while she cooked. (Actually, I blabbed on and on about how the interview went). But I did notice that she is much more generous with the Worcestershire sauce than I am and next time I make Shepherd’s Pie, I will be too!

Tags: , , ,