I guess it’s because I’m around food all the time.
What they don’t understand is that a night of not having to think about “what’s for dinner” is generally a good night.
I never much worry about cooking for other people. If they’re friends and something turns out less-than-stellar, there’s always take-out and they’ll forgive me.
This all came to me in the middle of making some tabouli. Chopping the first tomatoes from the farm, it hit me. This batch of tabbouleh was for a meeting of Slow Food Hudson Valley.
There would be chefs there.
Chef-instructors from the Culinary Institute of America.
Funnily, I wasn’t particularly worried about what they would think of my tabbouleh. It’s not authentic, nor does it want to be. It’s just the way I make it. If you want to join the social media, food-shaming route that says Nigella Lawson’s carbonara isn’t authentic because there is (gasp) cream in it, be my guest.
My tabouli has lots of mint, little, often no parsley. There’s a lot more bulgur than herbs and a big toss of allspice. It’s the way I like it.
Funnily, what I was worried about was the potential scrutiny of my cuts. My knife skills.
Were my tomatoes and onions properly diced? Parsley and mint evenly chopped? No pits from the lemons (my husband’s pet peeve)?
In the midst of thinking about intimidation, what I forgot was the key ingredient.
Confidence that it would taste great and no one would care about anything else.
And then I tasted it.
Remembered why I seldom put parsley in it. Whether you believe it or not, parsley has a distinctive taste. This parsley was straight from the farm where I had picked it an hour earlier. Boy, did it have a taste and it wasn’t good.
Because you can overlook improperly chiffonaded mint, but a bad flavor profile is a whole other thing.
Fast fix…more lemon, more tomato, a little more olive oil and some salt seemed to get it to a better level.
The verdict from the chefs?
“What we really care about is the flavor profile,” and that was fine (if not my best).
So the next time you might be intimidated cooking for someone, remember it’s all about the flavor.