Monday, December 14, 2009

Windy City Cooking: Week 19

(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)


Enemy Self
by Jason Hissong
14 December 2009

I'm sick.

I'm not physically ill. I haven't come down with H1N1 or that ubiquitous winter cough. I don't have any virus or disease, that I'm aware.

I'm sick of myself.


I had a moment today, at a holiday gathering, where I realized I was jealous of others' culinary ability.

It's a ridiculous notion. I'm sick of myself.

When I examine this more closely what I know is this: 1) I want to cook more from home. 2) I want to spend less money on food. That's what that really means.

I'm sick of my current lifestyle.

Because I have trashcans full of money in the form of empty Starbucks, and Au Bon Pain, and Intelligentsia, and Metropolis coffee cups.

How many times can I make the Jimmy John's, Corner Bakery Cafe, Qdoba, Potbelly rounds for lunch?

How many times can I take the easy way out and stop by Orange Garden on my way home?

How many times can I convince myself that it's okay to eat out all weekend, because I have to eat and I'm with friends?

I hate New Year's resolutions. They don't stick because it's an artificial starting point. Self made. In my experience, people only change their lifestyles or habits when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. So New Year's resolutions don't work, for me, because the artificiality of the calendar flip is simply an excuse, and an acknowledgement that I'm not in enough pain to change, yet.

And yet I find myself, every year, seemingly, making resolutions.

The truth is this: I'm a runner but I don't concentrate on foods that help me run. The Soldier Field 10 Mile in May and the Chicago Marathon in October aren't going to care that I spent my prep months eating crap.

I need to lose some pounds. I'm sick of my belly. And yet I do nothing in terms of what I put in my mouth to aid that effort.

I'm interested in sustainability and the slow food movement, and making sure my food comes from good places. And yet I do nothing to learn more and learn how to aid those processes.

I made a comment today at a holiday gathering that I was jealous of the culinary prowess on display.

My friend David turns to me and calls me out. You're a great cook, he tells me.

I know in my head he's correct. I can more than hold my own in the kitchen.

But I'm sick of myself because I haven't seen any improvement lately.

Because I haven't been cooking.

And, in the end, writing, running, and cooking are all the same in this way: the only way out is through. The only way to get better is to do.

So a today resolution: more cooking. More learning and cooking about the things I feel are important in my culinary life.

Because I'm sick of myself.

What I've Cooked, What Others Have Cooked for Me, Where I Ate

I'm not going to detail every meal I ate this week, mostly because you've read it all before, in previous weeks.

Highlights, though: Friday night I hit the Kristkindlmarkt in Daley Plaza. It's a perennial little holiday to do celebrating the German cultural presence in Chicago. You better believe I had a kraut-saddled brat in the cold winter air. Delicious.

I went to a place I had never been before on Saturday night. Jason and Elizabeth and I went after seeing The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The place was called Firkin and Pheasant. It sets itself up as an English pub -tyle place, but the food is pedestrian. I had the club sandwich.

The other remarkable culinary standout this week was the holiday gathering I attended yesterday. I didn't write down every dish, but many thanks to David, for hosting, Melanie, Charles, Lisa, Kimberly, Tim, Mark, Blake, Chris, George, Kiki, Kip, Chuck, and Alex for the spread. Tons of cookies, and tarts. Cheeseball, shrimp, goat cheese and cranberry roll. Pretzels, fresh fruit pie. Warm apple cider. You get the picture. I contributed peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. My only regret is that I brought some home. Because they won't go uneaten.

I cooked minimally this week. And very common food: eggs. Leftover onion soup. Nothing worth mentioning beyond that.

1 comment:

  1. Jason - I could have written some of this myself. Yes, we change when it's more painful not to change than to change.

    I'm finding myself moving toward more vegetarian eating. I love meat, but I've just gotten too uncomfortable with how animals I eat are raised and killed, and the humane meat choices are pretty expensive. I've known for 40 years it was more sustainable to eat this way (Good old Diet for a Small Planet) but that wasn't motive enough.

    It's easy to feel apologetic for prosaic food, but I like my food that way. Trying to let taste alone be the arbiter of whether something's worth eating.