A genuinely strange pleasure, but not necessarily one I’d describe as “guilty”: Food writing, and particularly reading recipes.
What makes it strange is that I don’t cook, not really. I read the recipes and imagine cooking them, pictures the steps and the flavors and the result in my head — sometimes in surprising detail, right down to the plates or bowls they’d be served in — and think to myself, Maybe one day or I should save this for later. I read it with the pleasure of anticipation for something that I know, deep down, I’ll likely never do.
It’s not cookbooks that this plays out in, although I’ll certainly leaf through a cookbook or two if I’m in the local Powells; it’s online food writing. I check the New York Times food section, and especially The Guardian food section with the devotion of someone who knows what they’re doing, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a weekend tradition; I’ll find some down time and see what recipes are available this time.
I look at the recipes or the essays and filter them immediately. I don’t like figs, I’ll think, and slip past that one quickly, finding something more to my taste — is there a sweet thing? A pastry? — instead. It’s done with an eye to a final step, actually making the damn thing, that I know will never actually come.
It’s a tradition that is oddly calming and comforting. I don’t know where it came from — my family were not big cooks, and when married, food wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed or even had much say in, to be honest, as much as I discovered and loved baking a few years ago — and I don’t know when it started. Perhaps it’s always been a “What If?” scenario, a message from another life to suggest a world I could easily lose myself in.
All I know is, give me some good recipes and evocative writing, and I’ll be a happy man. For at least 20-30 minutes each weekend.