By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

A long time ago, in what feels like another life, I was a sous chef at a Cajun restaurant in San Diego.

Those who have known me for a while now well know my career over the years has taken multiple unusual directions. I’ve long referenced the comment that I’ve held more various job types than Homer Simpson.

But it’s a true statement. I briefly cooked for a chef when I lived in the Old Town area. I didn’t really have a background in cooking, but I eventually became comfortable with it, serving up plate after bowl of gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée. After the dinner rush was over, I’d sit on the front porch with my own meal I’d whip up, and overlook the Whaley House in the lot next to us. The building is known as one of the most haunted houses in America.

The Missus and I lived just one block away from the restaurant, and she knew when the rush ended. She and our dog of the time, a wiry blonde cairn terrier, would stroll over to see how the evening went. She’d usually order something to go, so I’d enter the kitchen again just for her and cook up the meal of her choice. The dog would usually get at least one bite.

Over the years, I’ve retained memory of preparing some of those recipes, and will cook them up on special occasions. The Missus has me season just about everything these days as I have a strange knack for fighting the right combination, sweet and spicy for most dishes. I eventually grew into making desserts. Most of the food I cook is based on experimentation, and I tend to have a knack for finding flavors that work. If we are all to have one “thing,” that seems to be mine.

I had a sudden epiphany about food and the importance of taste over the weekend, and while I’ve cooked a few times over the last years, I never really did much with it outside of being a “special” occasion. I think I got complacent in a world of staying home more, and I haven’t been eating as well as I should or as I used to. Even when going back out more regularly, I’m usually in a rush, so I’ve admittedly eaten more franchised fast food crap. I eat to get by, but I don’t necessarily enjoy it.

Why am I not making something enjoyable I’m required to do every single day?

I’ve been starting to get that “middle age body” in the last two to three years, or more appropriately, my father’s middle age body. He was lean like I’ve always been, but he had a stomach, and I seem to have been adopting that feature of his of late. I can hear him laughing about it as I type this.

Middle age. Eating well. Better quality food. Varying meal experiences. I started thinking about what goes into food, and how a really good meal can stay with you like a song or a moment. Cooking a good meal is as much of an art form as making a sculpture or painting, composing a song, or making a film. Why am I spending time doodling in the notebook margins when I’ve done better? Why did I stop?

Because the last year has been weird, and I’ve let myself go through a drop in quality as a result.

So I’ve decided to started restudying cooking again. I’ve recently been regifted some time in my schedule, so I’ve decided to deal with this “middle age” thing more directly, and even if I’m not out crafting some mega meal, I can start small, with better and more sensible proportions, and get back into better shape. I feel this stage of life isn’t going to decrease with age. I may as well start taking some responsibility for it now. Well, that and I don’t have the constitution and will of a “garbage disposal” like I did in my twenties.

Getting older is not for the young, let me tell you. I may have to moderate the gumbo for a while.

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