Nat reveals how the late author and TV chef helped him master the art of romance.
I think Bangkok’s Flower Market is a romantic place, but no one in the office seems to agree with me. There was a loud chorus of groans when I outlined what I thought would be a great way to show someone I cared: take him to the flower market at 3am after clubbing, explore the lanes, buy some flowers, say how much the flowers complemented my date….
From the mock sounds of vomiting that filled the room, I realised that, as a man who is finally getting married after 15 years in a relationship, I have totally lost touch with romance and romantic dates.
So let me put on my toupée, put in my dentures, set away my cane and tell you about how I romanced my fiancé way back in the day. I actually didn’t take him to the flower market nor did I buy him any exotic bouquets. I did what I always do for people I care about: I cooked.
I only cook for people I like. The degree of like dictates the type of meal. I have restaurant friends and then I have come-eat-dishes-I-cook friends. So there’s ‘like’ and then there’s ‘like-like’. The next step up is friends who are invited to drink my great wine with complicated dishes I have cooked. And then, at the top of the list, I have people who merit marry-me-and-you-will-always-eat-well dishes. I save my big guns for the last group or, in my case, the only person who has ever been in that group.
So what are big-gun dishes? What is it that I cooked with the hope of serving it to that special someone for the rest of my life? And, as I’ve said, there is only one special someone who has merited this food and I’m marrying him soon. When I cooked for him, I really cooked. I made dishes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Last week would have been Mrs Child’s 100th birthday and what home cook who has any real hopes of doing it well doesn’t attempt at least half of the dishes she wrote about?
Even though there’s the Internet now, I’m of the generation that everything I’ve learned about cooking I learned from either books or television. There are plenty of authors and television presenters who have helped me to improve my skills, but none compare to Julia Child. It isn’t only the fact that the dishes are generally complicated and require you to learn a bit of technique. It’s the fact that they are robust and flavourful. They go well with other dishes. They go well with wine. With my great wine.
So what did I make when I wanted someone to fall in love with me? What didn’t I make?
Okay. I basically made everything that wasn’t gross and might be apt to turn my beloved sick. Little did I know then that his favourite things to eat epitomised gross to me, things like liver and tripe, kidneys and intestines. But I don’t recall any of that being in Julia Child. Perhaps it was because I was never going to make any of that.
I made croissants. They were a little deflated at the time, and burned, but I made them. It wasn’t until years later that I figured out how to make them in a tropical climate and that it involved much longer times allowing the dough to proof in a refrigerator — more time than I have patience for.
My croissants being little more than a failure that prompted polite nods of encouragement, I went on to something that seemed foolproof. I made pot-au-feu. I even went out and bought a huge pot for it. As Julia Child has you make it, pot-au-feu is a boiled dish that includes a pot roast of beef, a rolled shoulder of pork, sausages, vegetables and an entire chicken. We ate that for a good two weeks before it was finished.
The day I knew I had succeeded in my suit was when we had leftover pot roast, er, beef pot-au-feu with rice and a sauce Perigueux (brown sauce with truffles). The man who would become my fiancé liked the sauce so much that he wanted to spread it on bread and eat it. That’s when I knew I had him hooked.
Without Julia Child, I would be a lonely man today, taking hapless dates to the flower market at 3am and buying them flowers that they would throw out and saying things to them that would make them throw up.
Thank you, Mrs Child.
20/08/2012 - 12:22