Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Ready, steady, competitive cook!

I like a good bit of competition; don’t get me wrong. But competing to see who meets their targets at work or when it comes to Him Indoors (LADIES! BACK OFF! HE’S MINE!!) is not my idea of fun. What I’m talking about is healthy competition. You know, playing scrabble down the pub. A game of badminton with your dad. Trivial Pursuit over Christmas with the family. As long as it doesn’t get violent (which is why we no longer play Monopoly with Him Indoor's family) or just down right humiliating (I still have painful memories of PE at school), it is acceptable.

However, I have noticed how competitiveness has drifted into areas of my life where I thought it never would. Or could.

Take cooking, for example. I like cooking. So does Him Indoors. I like to rustle up a tasty, quick and easy Spag Bol in the week, bake birthday cakes for my friends and plan the occasional dinner party, whereas Him Indoors likes to research, meticulously plan and devise his own gourmet meals every night. Tomato pasta sauce? Well, he has it on the hob simmering away by three in the afternoon in order to “intensify the flavours”. Chicken fajitas with a quick salsa? The chicken needs marinating for at least several hours, and the peppers for the salsa need roasting first, don’t you know. Re-fried beans? Out of a can? Certainly not!
Anyway, you get the idea.

At first his amateur attempts at Cordon Bleu cooking didn’t bother me, other than the odd monitoring of oil and butter use (yes, olive oil is good for you, but if use half a litre every day I WILL GET FAT!) But then he started to try and muscle into my areas of expertise. For example, Chilli Con Carne. Now, I have been making this dish for years, first following my mum’s recipe taken from Good Housekeeping, and then adopting the version created by the Hairy Bikers. And, I have to say, I’ve always been quite proud of it.

That is until Him Indoors found a new version, this one with coffee and Jack Daniels in it. I sucked my teeth but decided to let him give it ago. It was good. Very good. Needless to say, I don’t make the Chilli in our house anymore. Now he’s talking about having a go at Tagine. Computer says no. Tagine is MY dish and nobody else’s. So back off. And if he suggests making his own version of my Chocolate and Peppermint cake it might just be the end of a beautiful relationship.

But even at work, there’s no escape. My colleagues are forever exchanging recipes and comparing how they go about making the perfect Risotto, Thai fish cake, or Beef Wellington. Hell, I’ve even been out and bought Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals just to be able to keep up with their daily discussions. And, the more that I confess that Him Indoors has taken over the kitchen at home, the more I feel my culinary co-worker’s scorn. I am a failure unless I'm getting creative in the kitchen. I have lost.

But the competition doesn’t stop there. The meals that I prepare and share not only have to be tasty, technical and terrific, they also have to be low fat, lot calorie, low GI, high in fibre and protein. Not to mention organic, fair trade, free range and responsibly sourced. It’s enough to make a girl reach for a Big Mac.

So, as you tuck into your evening meal, spare a thought for me as I sit glued to Mr Oliver, watching his every move like my life depends on it. Because, you see, my success in the kitchen seems to have become key to my own self worth. It is serious business, and the competition is hotting up. Where did I put that spatula…? Read more by Shelly.