Every other week, I produce a food-themed column for that most dear and prickly of den mothers, The Harvard Crimson. It’s been a long and strange relationship with the school newspaper. Freshman year, I basically kept a toothbrush there and when I wasn’t there, I was madly refreshing my Gmail inbox to jump on a story pitch. Oh, yeah, I wanted to be a real journalist. How bizarre.
Don’t forget to check out my other column this week, for the Crimson’s FlyByBlog, where I answer a question about ethnic restaurants in the Quad. (The comments section is also helpful. I had no idea about that Nepalese place. Is that new?)
This column photo is completely nonsensical. I remember the photographer and I wandered out into the street and were like, uh, ok, here’s a giant water jug because you wrote about boiling water. Oh, look, there’s a fountain! It doesn’t have to make sense, right?
Anyway, here’s my contribution this week, out today in Fifteen Minutes, on my experiences learning how to cook (and making this kung pao chicken recipe).
I’ll be honest: I’m a fearsome eater. One of my proudest moments was vanquishing an entire table of drunken Australian businessmen at an all-you-can-eat Japanese grill in Shanghai; while they ignored bowls of fried rice and poked at lackluster ice cream, I wolfed it all down.
But I’ve found that describing myself as a food writer has led to awkward lines of inquiry. I’m scared of a certain question. And it always comes, revealing me as a rank impostor. After finding out that I write about food, someone always asks, “Oh, so do you cook?”
I’ve come up with a few ways to answer this.
One method is the soft sell. “No. Nothing,” I’d say. “I’m not sure if I can boil water.”
Another reply is to hedge. I say, “Uh, sorta,” adding with apologetic smile pasted on my face, “I’m learning.”
This tended to bring less vitriol, more pity.
But all this underselling and hedging wears on the soul. And besides, I genuinely wanted to learn how to cook and to quit cowering behind a pot of cold water.