Good Eats

Good Eats
Mama to the Rescue

Brendan Main | 9 Feb 2010 12:27
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A friend of mine, an accomplished chef, describes cooking as alchemy: You combine mundane items and produce something wondrous, a whole greater than its parts. But what we did that night was closer to necromancy. The room filled with smoke and steam. Pots bubbled wildly, and pungent sauces sizzled in pans. Dishes were conjured forth that were never meant to be.

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One major difference from cooking in game and in life is that, under Mama's watch, things can never fly off the handle. You can burn the roast or spill the soup, but Mama is always there to "make it better." Left to our devices, things got quickly out of hand. The potstickers got potstuck. The miso soup roiled menacingly like a witch's brew. And my hand-crammed squid looked like a Lovecraftian horror. For a moment, surrounded by pots and pans full of three meals worth of mystery food, it seemed like we had put an enormous amount of time and energy into trading one kind of mess for another. Numb from all the effort, we filled our plates and sat down to eat.

We hardly had room to move, surrounded by piles of dishes. I just sat there staring, not knowing what to try first. After all that effort, we could hardly find the heart to actually eat any of our concoctions. Finally, Colleen picked up a dumpling with her chopsticks, dabbed it in soy sauce and popped it in her mouth. Her expression changed. Her cheeks turned color. Tears ran down her face. "How ..." she says.

"How can it be this good?"

Maybe it was the strain and fatigue that made the food that extra bit satisfying. Maybe it was the relief of having one good thing come out of our rotten first day in town. But for whatever reason, the food was good. It was great. It was just as good as Mama's. Sitting there with our meals, we forgot about our lousy apartment full of broken windows and rotten wood. We forgot about our lying, gutless yellow-bellied sack of a landlord. We even forgot how miserable tomorrow's dishes would be.

The full title of Cooking Mama 2 is Dinner with Friends. And maybe that's life lesson No. 3: Cooking, like most other things in life, is a messy business. You can get it wrong, and you can get burned. But no matter how far gone you are, no matter how badly you screw things up, things always seem brighter over good food and good company. And that night, I was blessed to have both.

Brendan Main hails from the frosty reaches of Canada, where every section of the supermarket is the frozen food aisle. When not preparing culinary masterpieces, he cooks up reviews at www.kingandrook.com.

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