I have only made coq au vin once, but the satisfaction of being able to say I made coq au vin has outlived even the memory of the taste. There is a pleasure I get, the foodie in me stirring to life, to even in my head say Coq. Au. Vin.
I didn’t grow up in a household of fancy food. My mother was, like many mothers I’m sure, most concerned with getting dinner on the table especially after working a full time job. She made good food that could feed a family of five and yield some leftovers for lunches or a repeat of a meal later in the week. But, when given the space on a holiday or a family gathering, my mother would turn on and give into her greater desires of what a meal could be.
I liked being my mother’s sous chef when I was younger, but it wasn’t until living on my own (really with my sister spinster) that I learned how to cook. I liked cooking for someone else, although I was always afraid of whether she would like it or not, whether she would go back for another helping. And inevitably, I would pick apart the meal. Too little salt. Not sufficiently browned. Cooked a bit too long.
When I moved to the Southwest and lived alone, my cooking habits changed. I never expected to have the same dining culture in southern New Mexico as I’d had in New York, but I did expect that there would be food there I would also love. I did find some, one Mexican place, one Vietnamese restaurant, and one Middle Eastern cafe. Oh and the place with the cream puffs. But pretty much otherwise, the lack of a food scene demanded that I cook more.
And so I did.
At first, I cooked the meals I’d made in New York, one pot meals that would satisfy and leave leftovers (just like my mom would have wanted). But, many of those meals had been made for a colder climate and at some point in the heat of the Southwest, a stew just isn’t that appealing.
I began to try other things, to cook Mexican in a town with a population that was more than half Mexican-American. Every supermarket would have a selection of peppers I would only see in fancier grocery stores in New York. I always had jalapenos, serranos, poblanos, and tomatillos in my house. I bought prickly pears and paddle cactus or nopales.
I discovered what really good and fresh tortillas tasted like and found that those could be eaten with absolutely nothing and be delicious. Or be fried to make my tortillas chips to scoop up the salsas and guacamoles I made. I roasted chickens and delighted in eating the crispy chicken skin standing up in my kitchen. I tried my hand at ceviche and perfected margaritas and mojitos. I juiced fresh tomatoes and made Bloody Marys.
I wasn’t cooking for anyone. I was only cooking for myself and that gave me greater freedom than I’d known before. I had no fear about who would approve of what I’d made or not. I tried what I liked and never cooked what I didn’t.
I did not make coq au vin, but I made meals that I was proud of, like the pasta al carbonara in the picture, and were fancy for no other reason than I wanted them to be. I was not the mother making meals for my family or the woman making meals for my partner and I loved every minute of being invested in me and only me.
Doing some cooking for one? Try these out:
http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/cooking-for-one (scroll dow far enough and there’s a link to whiskey cocktails!)
http://www.marieclaire.com/food-cocktails/a1926/cooking-for-one-recipes/ (and a coq au vin mention!)
And this deserves a space on my cookbook shelf: http://knopfdoubleday.com/book/88458/the-pleasures-of-cooking-for-one/