When you do a food-centric blog, you find yourself writing about your meals – not surprising, I’m sure. But what happens when your own meal cooking hits a slump? For me, the answer is Nothing. No, I don’t mean there is no effect on my blogging, I mean there is No blogging. And that, my friends, is why I have been absent here for the last eight days – I’m in a slump!
Now I’m not going to suggest that other food bloggers never admit when they’re in a slump, but I will tell you that I read lots of other food blogs, and I ain’t seen one yet that spent any time to tell its readers all about the week’s failed meals. But I’m about to buck the trend, folks, and share with you my frustrations of the past week – and that just may be a food blog first! And, as an ex-manager, I’ll be the first to remind ya’ll that there’s value in mistakes – and a good deal of that value is in admitting it, and determining how to never let it occur again.
It all started about a week ago when, in an attempt to catch the benefit of the holiday grocery specials, I picked up both a brown sugar spiral ham, and a small, two rib prime rib. Now, to me this makes sense because first, both are cheaper right now than they will be all year, and two, because they both make a decent, if not special, first meal, and then serve as great sandwich fodder for bowl game watching. And I frankly love the dividend of the bones that each give you: split pea soup with the ham bone; and BBQ’ed beef ribs for the other. Of course, what goes unspoken and unthought in all this is the fact that you are setting yourself up for getting VERY tired of having beef and ham again, and again, and again. But, then, there are worse things to get tired of.
The ham I picked was not the cheapest in the market – today’s cheap hams are probably just about the most adulterated “real” meat product (meaning that they start with an actual pig rump) on the market today. After soaking in a mixture of water, salt, liquid smoke, saltpeter and god only knows how many other chemicals, they actually inject more of that liquid stuff into the ham, until it won’t hold any more – then they wrap it in a water-tight plastic seal (god forbid any of those juices leak out!) and proudly offer it for .69 a pound. Yes, I know the spiral hams are similarly processed, but at least they are dried off a bit, and some have actually spent time in a smokehouse. But let’s be serious – a food blogger isn’t going to write about a Christmas spiral ham.
The prime rib, on the other hand, may have provided the environment for creativity, and easily served as blogging fuel – or so one is tempted to think. I even decided to use a roasting technique that was new to me – 500 degrees for 25 minutes, and then you don’t open the oven door for an hour. Supposedly guaranteed juicy and rare. NOT! This was easily the most well done roast beef I’ve ever had; I consider well done beef to be ruined beef – and this from a guy who owns a fantastically useful and effective digital probe meat thermometer. On top of that, the quality of this beef was poor at best – I envisioned a beleaguered rancher who was forced to withhold feed from his herd for the last month before market. Marbling was nonexistent (Yes, I realize that suggests I’m not a careful meat chooser, and I’ll admit to being more interested in getting the biggest two rib pack than in inspecting it for marbling.). Tough and overdone; how good could it have been?
But let me put the blame where it belongs – the real reason for the slump was that I had lost one or more of the necessary elements every good cook must have to be successful in the kitchen. I had no concentration – and we cooks may not spend a lot of time in consideration of concentration, but one thing I carried with me from my old restaurant days was that if you lost your concentration, you made mistakes. And I was making mistake after mistake. Frustration was taking the place of joy.
And I had lost my inspiration – what’s a cook without inspiration? Especially a cook who wants something to blog about. Especially one who lives to eat.
Now let me redirect my concentration to emptying our overfilled refrigerator – maybe then my inspiration will return.