Saturday, July 16, 2016

Retiring The Apron

Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, de-I

The greats all retiring. For me it is retiring from entertainment cooking.

For all of my adult life, cooking as an art, as an expression of creativity has been a major part of life. I remember the first cookbook (a James Beard paperback) that led to the first creative meals in an apartment I shared with a guy while in the Army. Party upon party through the years of my children growing up, massive events later on, recruiting a cadre of people who would 'just eat' and not worry about inviting me back so I had an audience to perform for - all these defined a major part of me.

But like so much else, as I finally embraced transition as the right thing to be doing as an older person, I have found it is time to let this go.

As I wrote last month about balancing the buckets, the core of happiness and fulfillment as you get older (in my opinion) is recognizing the reality of your personal energy situation and finding the balance of activities and the energy they require use and not abuse that energy (nor have too much energy left over so you are bored!)

It has taken me over a year to come to the realization that it was time to hang up the apron. I'd noted that the various entertainments I attempted left me so tired that I couldn't enjoy them. So I started to alter my menus and do less ambitious things even though doing the ambitious projects were things I loved. I also noticed that I was starting to make mistakes. Cooking for others when there is last minute prep requires working accurately at speed with hot things. In recent time some of these mistakes could have been serious in terms of damage to me or to the kitchen. Also as I've gotten older, my capability to eat and drink has diminished so my ability to enjoy my work has diminished.

The last entertainment I did brought all these trends to the fore. I was tired when my guests arrived even though I'd organized a meal not requiring anywhere near the pre-cooking I'd have done 5 years ago. I was visibly tired to the guests fairly early in the evening. It took me a day to recuperate. I wasn't impressed with my standard of cooking - I'd made errors. And while cleaning up I made an error that could have led to a fire.

Like the athlete who loves the game but can't perform at the level needed, I realized that my doing this, at this level had run its course.

In the spirit of transition, I still like to cook. But I put my efforts into just things for Wife and I where I can go slow and work within the level that I'm capable. And I think there is a less ambitious level that I can do things from time to time for family and friends. But Kitchen Stadium (so to speak)? Not any more.

Everything has its time and place and I've had a very good run in the kitchen.


JRR said...

Now this is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge loss to many - but since we are even more fond of you than food, well done old fella. ... and thanks for the wonderful meals and the memories of them that we all carry

Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

When circumstances or energy levels or bodies change it can be hard to accept that what we can do comfortably also changes. Good for you for realizing what is working and what isn't.

Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

When circumstances or energy levels or bodies change it can be hard to accept that what we can do comfortably also changes. Good for you for realizing what is working and what isn't.

Xani said...

I hope you will come out of retirement to lead the cooking team one night in OBX! We will do the heavy lifting, but would love for you to design/supervise the execution of a dinner down there!

de-I said...

Xani, you mean I get to be the "Executive Chef"!

That's way cool.

I can do that :)

alexis said...

I respectfully disagree

At the center of this whole idea is a fixed idea of what it means to entertain that involves long, elaborate, intricate meals with lots of different styles of cooking and multiple courses. It's not time to hang up the apron, it's just time to cook in a different way. Your friends would be delighted to come eat a wonderful single dish meal (dare I say a casserole...) that you prepared hours ago and popped in the oven an hour before they came.

It is about sharing a love and sharing bread, not about producing a 15 course tasting menu showing off all nearly-50 years of your skill. Everyone knows youre' skilled, you can show it in different ways, in one simple, beautiful dish.

We entertain with a lot of thought to how can we conserve energy and we are young! But we are short on time (and sleep). This includes thought around the prep and clean-up afterwards too, mind.

On the other hand if you're not keen on entertaining because it is tiring to have company over, that's another story altogether.

de-I said...

Appreciate the comments Alexis but in my case 'the cooking' was the thing. It really was about the opportunity to cook extravagantly, to use all my skills, to perform so to speak. That's why I eventually went to developing a group of people who I didn't have to entertain but would come strictly to be an audience for my cooking.

I loved performing at that level. I'm not saying I will never do the kind of cooking you're discussing - especially for family - but the days of cooking as performance art are over.