Sometime last year, when I was in a particularly vexing, frustrating and depressing point in life, I finally come to realize that life is about living, not surviving. I am not talking about splurging and living a high life I cannot afford. It’s about doing all the things that I had always wanted to – things that you put off till you retire – things that can become part of your life now. In short, I am Living It.
The idea of having cooking as a hobby is not new and can almost be considered a fad these days with the huge number of culinary shows on TV. I guess it is very approachable and also a skill with very tangible benefits! But that does not stop some people from giving me a are-you-really-sure look when I tell them I am cooking as a hobby. Most will also balk when they find out I am paying hundred bucks a lesson (close to a thousand per series of lessons) and spending much more on proper kitchen equipment. Some also find it unfathomable that I buy “expensive” ingredients to cook with.
I had been in the IT line my entire life and I must had spent a fortune on professional certifications – in many cases, I will spend again many years later for “re-certifications” of the same skills I had been working with all my life. Each time, they cost WAY MORE than what I had paid for cooking classes and are useful only when I look for new jobs although they almost do not guarantee I keep the present one! On the other hand, cooking is a lifelong skill! You most definitely do not need to be re-certified for egg poaching every 5 years and they are not going to change the way madeleines are shaped every 3 years to keep to some crazy ISO standards. If the world is going to shit tomorrow, I am not sure people care if I can know the FSMO roles of a Windows domain but I think I will be a very popular guy for my ability to convert basic ingredients like flour into things that can fill stomach and lift spirits.
Next comes the equipment. A lot of people seem to think a pot can be used as a saucepan can be used as a frying pan can be used as a serving plate. Ok, I do use a frying pan as a serving plate sometimes but you DO NOT use a pot to fry! Likely you are going to burn the side of the pot and when that happens, your pot will never be able to distribute heat evenly. There’s a tool for every task, in a workshop, at the office and in the kitchen. Just because they all have handles does not mean that they are the same thing in different sizes. In the kitchen, there are some very dangerous objects that can cut, burn and even maim. Wearing the right clothes and using the proper equipment is to prevent tragedies from happening. Besides, what’s wrong with buying good pots and pans that last and last – yes, there are life warranty for such things and they do not ever EOL.
Lastly the ingredients. Why expensive ingredients? Why not? The invention of refrigeration pretty much solved the whole perishable food problem and for the century past, we had seen a level of food supply that has never been matched any time in the history of mankind. Globalization had shortened the distances things need to travel to the people who want them. I have more options and choices than my grandparents when they were my age so why not use it? Besides, it is not as if I am cooking 3 expensive meals a day everyday – I still have a day job, I still eat simple foods at the hawker centre. But when I settle down to cook something nice for my family, friends or myself, I will want the best ingredients as a show of love and respect for them. Ok, I know expensive does not equate to good but good stuff almost never come cheap. ;) Knowing how to cook a restaurant class steak is not going to come easy but trust me – you will learn to cook a decent one with less than the amount you pay for 2 such meals and then you can eat a good steak whenever you want, forever.