When my siblings and I gathered in San Antonio more than three years ago, I had the opportunity to eat some breaded trout my brother Nate had pan-fried. It was so delicious that I moved past my comfort zone of poaching or baking, and I tried to replicate it in my own kitchen. My experiment didn't turn out nearly as well.
When I got home in April from visiting my brother's family in the UK, I told my husband all about the dishes Nate had conjured up for my friend Holly and me, how he had spoiled us rotten. I can still recall the aroma and taste of the huge bowl of shrimp fried rice, the golden potatoes and bright onions, the stir-fried vegetables, and the banana bread. Ah, that banana bread! It had cranberries and walnuts and I'm pretty sure a fair amount of liquor, too. Every morning I went to carve myself a thick slice off the fragrant, moist loaf. I didn't need anything else for breakfast, though of course I couldn't say no to Natie's hash browns and sausage.
The first night at my brother's house, I helped Nate prepare supper, showering chunks of salt and spices that I have since forgotten onto the skin of some lovely little fish. Later that week we went to Borough Market in London, and Nate dashed around gleefully, collecting several of the bountiful culinary delicacies we encountered there. Another night he introduced me to prawns. I've never seen such ugly little buggers before. I tried my best to allow the least amount of skin from my fingers to touch them as I attempted to peel apart their hideous, whiskered bodies. The others laughed at me and shook their heads at my hesitation in clawing for culinary heaven. Then they caved and helped me peel a couple creatures, so they wouldn't have to watch the unattractive contortions of my face while enjoying a fine meal. Nate didn't have the prawns. He asked us how they were. When Holly and I began to gush, he laughingly halted us with, "Not you! I know you'll just tell me they're good. Her!" And he swiveled his pointed finger from us to Natalie who confessed, "They're a little dry but still very good." Nate cried, "Ah!"
Great chefs are always seeking perfection, I guess.
When I told Matthew about all the dishes Natie created, I may have been a bit heavy-handed in my hints that men can cook, too, and love it. Though Matthew gobbles up cooking competition shows, he has no passion for attempting their products, and I have always wondered, why watch them then? I love neither the reality cooking shows nor the reality of cooking, so we are a forlorn pair, eating steamed broccoli, canned beans, grilled chicken, and spaghetti more than is decent. However, gallant as my man is and eager to pacify my pleas (or demands) for him to cook sometimes, he did promise to prepare a few of Nate's recipes if I procured them.
His delectable food isn't all I remember about my time with Nate, but not being an accomplished and merry chef myself, I appreciate that gift in others, especially my big sisters and brother. They all claim to have learned at Mom's side growing up. I wonder how they learned, and I didn't. Where the heck did I, the baby of the family, wonder off to when the cooking started? A weird child, I probably spent those minutes telling myself and my stuffed animals stories in the bathroom mirror. At least I have taught myself to bake tolerably well as an adult, but one cannot survive on cake and scones alone. I wish I could! Instead, I think I'll ask my big brother for some recipes.
Just not the prawns.