Uncharted Territory

I like to eat. A lot. To be clear, when I say “a lot” I mean it both ways. I like to eat a lot of food and I like eating as an activity a whole lot. It’s pretty much my favourite thing. Food is happiness. I don’t care if people tell you it’s not good to eat your feelings. I do it all the time and it’s the fucking best. The mere act of crunching down on something tasty and mashing it into oblivion with my vice-like jaws makes me feel like I’m right on the cusp of divinity. Eating rules.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like to cook. Traditionally, I’ve preferred to play more of a supporting role in the kitchen. If someone else wants to expend their effort slaving over a hot stove, I’ll gladly scarf down a plate when it’s ready and show my gratitude by providing the praise they sought. I grew up in a big family, my mom always cooked enough to feed an army and she’d had her shit all figured out. She didn’t need me to help. She needed my appreciation. Which I was more than happy to show, by reaching for seconds, and sometimes even thirds. Unless of course she made something totally disgusting, like lasagna or scalloped potatoes. Bleeugf. That’s how disgust sounds, by the way. Bleeugf. Like you’re about to have a hairball on the dining room floor. There was nothing more disappointing than coming home from school famished and finding out that dinner was going to be something you hated. What a waste of a mealtime… But I digress. Cooking just wasn’t my bag.

Eventually though, you grow up and fly the coop. And you’ve gotta feed yourself, gotta eat to live. Luckily for me, I found myself a man who loves to cook and doesn’t mind one bit that I’m a total slouch at it. I’m wildly independent and I’ve always charged through life without ever wanting to rely on a man for anything. I’m just crazy like that, I guess. But cooking is really the only way I’ve ever thrown up my hands and let D provide for me. I love eating so much, but don’t really have the drive to make good food for myself. But D does. It’s a great fit, he loves to cook and I’m happy to let him. Who’s it really hurting anyways? He needed to find a way to make me dependent on him for something and I need to eat.

We’ve lived together a few years now and we’ve had a handful of exploits in the kitchen. D does the majority of the cooking, and once in a while I come along and turn something into a pizza. So I do manage to contribute in my own way. And up until recently, I’ve been happy to carry on playing my supporting role. “Mmm, yum! Great job, babe!” I know my lines by heart. But I’m somebody’s wife now. Bit of a game changer that is. I don’t want to be a slouch anymore, I want to step up my game. I see a learning opportunity and I think I’ve finally uncovered some motivation. I want to make my husband happy.

I can do anything, I just have to want to do it. And I think I do now. Plus, I got a whole shitload of new gadgets for the kitchen as wedding gifts. Use it or lose it, right?

Feeling inspired, I decided to try something different for dinner tonight. I wanted to make something really scrumptious that D would love. But I’m not completely ready to fly solo yet, so I still enlisted his help. We’re a good team, and he does love to cook, so I don’t want to take that away from him. As an aside, I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue pies, as a hobby. I want to make lots and lots of pies. And I want to get really fucking good at it. I may as well get two birds stoned at once while I’m at it, right? So I decided to make steak and ale pie for dinner tonight. A chance to hone both my cooking and baking skills at the same time!

We grocery shopped this afternoon, gathering up all of the necessary ingredients, and got to work as soon as we got home. D chopped mushrooms, onion, and garlic.

chopped!

Then we browned the stewing beef, using our fabulous new Le Creuset french oven. A wedding gift from my darling friend, The Ladybird Magpie that I’m forever grateful for.

browning the beef

And before long, we had an intoxicating concoction simmering on the stove top. With a little bit of thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, and some Downtown Brown Ale it all came together in a snap.

le creuset!

D popped out to grab us a few beers to enjoy with dinner, and when he got back to the apartment he told me he could smell our dinner cooking in the hallway and it was starting to drive him insane with hunger pangs! I started to feel really great about this cooking thing. I’ve got this. I can do anything I want, and I can totally kick the shit out of it.

But that feeling didn’t last long… Not once I got started on topping the pie.

The pie dish was way bigger than I remembered, and we didn’t quite make enough filling for it. We made enough filling to get it half full, and I was starting to feel a lot less cocky. But I charged ahead anyways. We’d already come this far, and I wasn’t going to let this stand in my way. I started preparing the crust for the pie. It sagged pathetically inwards. And then when I tried to brush the crust with some egg, I totally fucked up and spilled my cup of egg onto the pie. It was a total egg flood! We tried our best to soak up the spillage, but the results weren’t good. There were little pools of egg all of the top. My beautiful pie sat there staring up at me like some kind of disgusting eggy crater and I flipped out. I just totally lost it.

eggy crater

I got really upset and started shouting angrily at everything around me, naturally. I was so mad at myself, and anger is a knee-jerk reaction kind of thing for me. Stupid, so stupid! Why didn’t you make more filling? Why did you hold the cup of egg on such a precarious angle, you clumsy butterfingered fool? Arrgrrgrhhhhh! Frustration! This whole thing is a total fucking waste. Why don’t you just fling yourself off the balcony and end it now?

I broke down for a minute there, guys. I’m not proud of it.

But D was able to talk me down from the ledge eventually. He always does. He told me to stop putting so much pressure on myself on my very first try. It’s just dinner, it’s not such a big deal. And he was right. But I have such a nasty tendency to do that. I put so much pressure on myself and I have totally unrealistic expectations of greatness. I’m no master chef, I’ve only just started on my culinary journey. There’s going to be mistakes, lots. And I have to roll with it, I can’t lose my head and start raving like a lunatic when something goes wrong. He’s a smart guy, that husband of mine. I definitely don’t give him the satisfaction of hearing that as often as he should. But he was totally right. It might not come out of the oven perfect, so what? At least I tried.

We put the pie into the oven and resigned ourselves to hoping for the best.

When it was done, and it was time to see the finished product, I was pleasantly surprised.

finished product!

I learned something very important today: puff pastry is a fucking miracle of nature! The pastry worked double duty and made up for the lack of filling. It puffed up way more than I expected and totally saved the day. Hallelujah!

the serving

It was 3 hours in the making, and took us mere minutes to wolf down. And my very first attempt at a steak and ale pie was goddamn delicious, if I do say so myself.

It was a trying experience at times and it ate up my entire afternoon making this thing, but overall I feel good about it. I’m not discouraged. I almost was for a minute there, but D helped me bounce back. I wouldn’t say that cooking is fun, not at this point in time, but it is an adventure. And I like adventures, so I think I’m willing to stay the course and see where it will take me. Yeah, I’m not one for giving up. I’d like to see where this can go.

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