By Ryan Wolman
I’m not generally a patient guy. I go through everything fast. Music, socks, iphones, boyfriends and such. All disposable things to be consumed quick and discarded when done, onto the next.
I’m especially not patient when I cook. I cook when I’m hungry. So I turn up the flames all the way, mash a nice steak on the grill sear it fast, pace the backyard trying to make time pass and then straight to my mouth. My preferred utensil is a shovel when I eat. I’m not subtle, or graceful, or thoughtful.
Every meal’s a quickie. I don’t remember anything I made in my 20’s or early 30’s at all.
And now I’m in my late 30’s. I have a fiancé and a dog and a mortgage and a sore back sometimes. I’m my own boss (or I like to pretend I am) so my time is flexible. I’m starting to see the value of slowing down a little. It’s not easy for someone like me to become patient, or thoughtful, or slow.
I thought slow food meant that it wasn’t “fast food”. It wasn’t something deep fried at a takeout joint. I thought home cooked was slow by default. I feel like an idiot learning to cook all over again sometimes.
A couple months ago I decided to learn to cook slow. I bought a great book (http://www.amazon.ca/Cooking-Slow-Recipes-Slowing-Down/dp/1452104697), and made my first pot roast. 8 hours in an oven. I hated it. I was literally in agony. Checking it every 15 minutes or so, just so I felt busy and involved and useful. It’s not cooking unless you’re doing shit right?
What I noticed around hour six was the smell. I’ve always complained that My place didn’t have the smell of butter, garlic, onions, or whatever aromatics make a great cook’s home smell so sexy. My food never smelled like that. Looked good. Tasted good. Smelled like nothing. If smell is half the way we experience food then my food was half good at best in retrospect.
My place smelled like garlic and caramelized veggies and I actually left a few times and came back so I could smell it all over again. At hour 8 when I forced myself to let the meat sit for 10 minutes like the book insisted I thought I’d lose my mind. I tried to keep busy but I just wanted to cut a little piece off to sample the infinite roast. But I composed myself and waited.
The roast was the best roast I ever had. Now I know technically it probably wasn’t. I’ve had great roast at my mom’s (obligatory respectful nod) or a restaurant and they were probably better. What I was eating was this weird new thing I did. Something that was painful. I was patient, and I paid attention, and I adjusted to the meat, I didn’t move it along a searing hot grill bending it to my will like I usually do.
I listened, and watched, and had a little respect for the thing I was making. I stopped checking it every 15 minutes and let it do it’s thing without interfering more than I had to. I committed to something that was a little more than a quick pleasure. I took the time to pay attention and care about my dish, and I think that gave it a depth, and smell, and texture that I’ve never achieved before, even though I cook often and talk about it even more frequently.
We get older, and hopefully we see the value in slowing down and the invisibly obvious becomes something we can absorb. I feel a bit like I did when I met my <soon to be> husband. I’m often shocked that I’m able to appreciate something subtle and long and sometimes delicious, and sometimes calm and boring. Enjoying the fact that you’re sometimes just sitting around and enjoying a moment, creating something with depth.