When I was a little boy, I jumped out of bed every morning with a big smile and a monstrous appetite. The first words out of my mouth were always, “Good morning! What’s for dinner?”
After school, I raced home just in time to watch my mama cook. While she worked her magic in the kitchen, I walked around in a trance, sniffing and tasting anything I could find. I said, “I love you,” and, “You’re beautiful,” as I made my rounds, making my mama laugh. “Who are you talking to? Me or the food?”
In August 2018, I moved into my own Dallas apartment and started my first full-time job. The transition from college to work life has been tough, and I still struggle to find the right balance. It’s a lot harder to wake up every morning with a silly grin on my face like I used to.
But some things never change. I still have a monstrous appetite, and I still love to cook.
On the weekends, I shut down my work computer, pour myself a drink, turn on some 70’s music, and cook for hours at a time. I savor every slice, sizzle, and simmer. This is how I de-stress.
I’m happiest when I’m in the kitchen, and the kitchen has taught me how to be happier. Dear reader, I probably have not had the chance to cook a meal for you yet, so here are some cooking and life lessons to chew on.
1. Good things take time
The first time I made ribs, I scorched them in the oven at 450 degrees. They were ready to eat in 90 minutes, but they came out dry and discolored. I called my mama and asked her how to make tender, juicy ribs like the ones I grew up with. She told me that if I wanted to get on her level, I would need to take it slow: four hours at under 300 degrees.
I’m an impatient millennial. You should have seen the disappointment on my face when I wasn’t appointed CEO after just one week at my new job. Slow cooking has taught me that careers don’t take off over night. It’s going to take a while to achieve all my goals, but I have the rest of my life ahead of me. I’m trying to be more patient with myself and more appreciative of my efforts.
2. It’s ok to make a mess
When I’m cooking, my kitchen looks like a murder scene. Potato peels litter the counter, egg shells crunch at my feet, and flour pollutes the atmosphere. However, as soon as I finish eating, I get to cleaning. I scrub down the counters and scour the dirty dishes. By the time I’m through, the kitchen is spotless, and I’m hungry again.
I screw up at work and in my personal life too. Sometimes I forget to respond to an email or “forget” to exercise. My fifth grade, honor roll, perfect attendance self would be ashamed. I have become quite the hot mess, but I’m starting to think that I’m not alone. A lot of us are still riding that lifelong learning curve. We all crave control, but we can’t expect perfection from ourselves or other people. It’s ok to make a mess once in a while, as long as you clean up and learn from your mistakes.
3. You won’t know until you try it
Great chefs rely not only on measuring cups, but also their taste buds. The only way I know for sure if a dish needs more seasoning, more heat, or more time, is by tasting while I cook. That’s why I always have my trusty sampling spoon by my side, and often eat 1/4 of my dish before it’s even ready to serve.
I’m trying to get better at tasting things outside of my kitchen too. I have been living my life based on an old recipe book, and I really need to start writing my own. There are so many experiences that I have not yet tasted, and people whom I have not yet dined with.
So here’s my plan to maintain my appetite and revive my morning smile: this year, I’m going to do more of what I know and love, but in new ways.
I will continue to cook, but I want to invite more people to the dinner table. I will continue to write, but I want to reach new audiences. I will continue to binge watch TED Talks, but I want to develop some original ideas of my own.
Whether your new year’s resolution is to cook more or to simply live a happier life, I hope this article helped preheat the oven. What you’re cooking and how you want to live your 2019 is up to you! Bon appétit!
Roger Lam Chop’s Simply Scrumptious Spice Mix
When I’m in a pinch, I rub this spice mix over chicken, pork, or potatoes, toss it in the oven, and hope for the best. Enjoy, and feel free to add some sugar, spice, and everything nice to match your taste buds!
- 2 parts salt
- 1 part black pepper
- 2 parts cumin
- 2 parts paprika
- 2 parts garlic powder
- 1 part red pepper flakes
- 1 part oregano