Monday, January 20, 2014

Cooking with love vs. half-ass cooking

Have you ever noticed that the food we cook always tastes better or worse according to our moods? Regardless of using the exact same recipes, the exact same methods, I think that mood has a profound effect on the outcome of a dish.

Most of the time I half-ass cook (at home) is usually when I am tired and/or just not in the mood to cook but need to eat something. I think about 90% of my half ass cooking applies to when I am cooking after work after making food for others all night long. As I have mentioned in other posts, I am almost always behgopa after work. I don’t put much thought or effort into what I cook when I come home after work. I am not cooking to impress anyone. I just need something to feed my growling belly so that I don’t die of starvation! Since I am STARVING, I rush through the process as quickly as I can so that I don’t pass out from the starvation. Seriously, I cannot deal with hunger. I think the most stressful part about my job is the hunger part. On a typical day, I eat around 1ish before leaving to work. I start to get hungry around 5-6. Around 7-8ish (peak dinnertime) is when I start to die and feel like passing out from the hunger. That is when I start getting grouchy. And I don’t eat until I get home these days. Family meals just don’t do it anymore. Even on days when I do munch on things from family meal, I always still eat after I get home. Family meal is just something to just hold my hunger for the time being. I like to eat in comfort. I don’t want to worry about time, eat in a hurry or while standing up. I like to be comfortable when I eat.
I want to be out of my covered in food chefs uniform, all showered and clean. I need to be sitting at a table in a chair like a normal person eating dinner, without the pressures of rushing and running around to close all the stations of the kitchen. Clean, comfortable, and being pressure-free is what I need to really eat eat. That is usually why I prefer skipping family meal and waiting until I get home. I need that solitude and comfort in order to fully digest my food and be satiated.

I am so not one of those people that can eat on the go, eat in their car while driving, and just eat while running around….well I do sometimes, but I never consider those actual meals. I still need to eat a real meal at least twice a day.
So anyways….when I get home and am badly in need of a real meal, and am in no mood to cook, I will usually make something simple that’s yet to be filling. To me, jjigae (Korean soup/stew) is one of my biggest comfort foods. And most are really filling and simple to make. I can put it in the fridge and eat it for days. As simple as a lot of jjigaes are, when I half-ass to cook it after a long day, the taste of it does not turn out nearly as tasty as it does on days when I put some love into it (like when I am in a good mood and making it for others that I want to feed something yummy to).

The other night, we were pretty busy at the restaurant. I kept getting orders left and right. Our OG runner was not around, and one of the bussers filled in. He is not used to running food and struggled with many things. So having to deal with a sub on a super busy night added to the stress. It was one of those nights that I couldn’t even get a second to breathe or go pee. At the end of the night, as I was starting to close down one station, I kept getting orders nonstop at another station. And at that rate, I was never going to have the first station shut down. It wouldn’t have been that bad if I didn’t have additional crapload of things to do at the end of the night for one of the other chefs that did not come in that night. So in the middle of shutting down the first station, I was getting order after order at the other. At the same time, I was setting up the plates for the orders I already had before I kept getting more orders. On top of that, waiters were coming by to talk to me/ask me stuff regarding their orders, the new runner needed guidance in what to do or not do….I was about to lose my mind and throw some plates at people! I hate it when people talk to me while I am in the middle of a rush with orders. I get distracted easily. What made it especially worse was that I was going through the madness in HUNGER!! I think that was why I was super grouchy that night.
I hadn’t eaten all day long. When the night finally ended, I came home ready to eat for ten people. I was starving. I was weak, I was grouchy. I was about to die. The guys at work made fried chicken and french fries that night. But I really wasn’t in the mood to eat fried food. I wanted something soupy (if you’ve read my other posts, you know that I love soothing soupy stuff). I decided on soon tofu. After I washed up (because you know I can’t eat while I am dirty and covered in food lol), I went into the kitchen and barely managed to cook it. I just wanted, no..needed to eat. I didn’t care about it tasting fabulous. I just needed fuel for my slowly dying self. I half-assed through it. I barely had enough energy to eat.

The soon tofu really hit the spot. I felt soooooo much better after eating a comforting meal. I felt life coming back into my body. There was not much love put into the soon tofu as there is when I am making it for friends/family. I had made it exactly the same way, using the exact same ingredients. It tasted pretty much the same as always, but from the taste, I can tell that there was a very important component missing….LOVE.
Soon tofu is a dish I make fairly often. It’s soupy and spicy, so how can I not love it?! Unlike when I am making this dish for myself solely for survival purposes, when I make this dish for others to enjoy, I actually do put some love into it. And people have told me that mine tastes better than most soon tofu joints. When I am in the mood to cook at home, it’s usually when I am happy and well rested…and of course NOT BEHGOPA!!! Cooking in a good mood, with love, always produces food that tastes yummy. You can just taste the love that was put into it. Cooking with love really does seem to make a world of difference. It’s like I can taste my own mood in my own cooking.

At work, there are nights when I am just not in the mood to work. We all have those days every once in a while, right?
My boss always tells me, “Be sure to make it with love,” or “Make love with your food.” Like with my home-cooking, when I am half-assing through the motions on those nights when I am not in a good mood or just not in a working mood, he notices the lack of love that is missing from the plate. Well, these days, I have gotten better at hiding it (or faking it lol). But seriously, when I am in a good mood and putting more love into my dishes, they always look and taste so much better.

With the places I have worked at throughout my culinary career, I think I have gotten one bad review on one of them customer review sites. They commented about a dish being too salty. I totally knew the night they were referring to. It was one of those nights I was just really really not in the mood to be cooking and just really wanted to go home and end the work week….totally one of those half-assing nights. Most likely, they had ordered after I had shut down the station, getting all ready to go home. As I mentioned in a previous post, that is one of my kitchen pet peeves,- people that keep ordering food after the kitchen has closed. I am not the only one that has made this type of mistake. One of the guys had an order for a fish dish after he turned off everything and put everything away. And when he got the order, he was like, “puta madre!~” being extremely annoyed. This is how we get when you diners order food after the kitchen has closed. Waiters don’t care because they want more tips, so they’ll try to squeeze in the last order. Even I have started saying “puta madre” every time I get orders after I shut down lol. The Latinos teach me bad words in Spanish and the French guys teach me bad words in French.  Anyways~~ the fish order he received was made without love too. I guess he rushed through it so he can go home. The fish was sent back with complaints of it being undercooked. Not only was it not made with love, but also had technical cooking issues since he so half-assed through it. So he had to turn on the burners AGAIN and throw it back in the pan. So when the restaurant hours are over and you are still there and it looks like the kitchen is closed or about to close, please stop order more food, especially on busy nights. Or don’t be surprised if your food doesn’t come out tasting as good as it usually would. We are most likely to get annoyed and half ass it while putting no love into it.
Personally, I think my food tastes best when cooking at home for friends/family. Cooking for diners is for business. They are strangers…people I could care less about, people whose faces I don’t even see. You want them to love your food, so you cook to impress. But in the end, it still comes down to doing it for monetary purposes.

When cooking for people that I actually care about, I put an effort to go out of my way to put some love into the food to make them happy. I am not doing it to make money but to see them enjoying themselves. Maybe that is why they say home cooked meals are the best….there’s so much more love put into it!

8 comments:

  1. This is awesome! I totally agree when you out your heart into cooking it just tastes much better. It's like taking the time to add a garnish makes a big difference in how it looks and I think influences the taste too. I am not a chef but worked in restaurants and so understand what you are saying. Frustrating how customers can be inconsiderate. :/
    Btw...what is behgopa?

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Cindy. Totally true. It's the LOVE part that is tasting so good in a dish.

      Behgopa means "I'm hungry" and/or "hungry" in Korean. It is the word that describes me best because behgopa is what I am ALL THE TIME!

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  2. I totally appreciated this post b/c I can totally relate to it (I'm no professional chef like you though). I can't imagine wanting to cook for your family and friends when you spend like 6 days outta the week cooking in hot professional kitchen. It must be hard. And stop starving yourself - you should put snacks or something in your pockets when you get hungry :)

    I made dumplings the other weekend and it was so much effing work. But cooking is like love right = sometimes it's good ol' hard work :)

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    1. Yesterday I actually packed lunch to take to work lol. I've been meaning to do that more often, but it's my finicky appetite. I can never decide what I want to eat. Sometimes I starve trying to make up my mind for hours wtf I feel like eating. Other times I have a very specific craving and only THAT is what I feel like eating. My belly is a pain to deal with lol.

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  3. Agreed. Hangry food is always questionable.

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  4. Hey Kim,

    here's a runner's typ for pre-meal cravings: Take a piece of celery, a nice fat clean piece, smear a teaspoon of peanut butter on it and that will stop cravings.

    Hunger cravings are caused by insulin sensitivity (actually minmal changes to which our bodies overreact). We long distance runners train to improve this because it's linked to a better performance.

    It will certainly not make the hunger disappear but it will make it tolerable enough to allow you to cook relaxed and enjoying what you do.

    Nice blog, BTW, I'm a fanatic of Korean cuisine, got converted during a trip to Daegu for a race last year and I am learning to do all the recipes that I tried there well, a part of them because we ate a lot in Seoul and Daegu.

    Cheers from Holland ;)

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    1. Thanks a ton for visiting! My brother actually eases his cravings with peanut butter on celery sticks too. Sometimes he skips the celery sticks and just spoons peanut butter. And he's a fitness guru and gym nut. For me, that is still not enough. I guess it does help somewhat make it a wee bit more tolerable, but still....I'll still be cranky and irritable from the hunger!

      Glad to hear you have become fond of Korean food. What are some of your favs? That is pretty cool that you are a long distance runner. I bet you have some mad skills on ways to improve dealing with hunger, especially since I can imagine that you are always building up an appetite.

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