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2003-10-14 - 11:07 a.m.

I just wanted to take a moment to crow about my culinary triumph this past weekend. My stepmother was out of town for a couple of weeks on business and my father is one of the last great hold-outs when it comes to men learning to cook, so meals were getting a bit basic by this past weekend. Since it was Thanksgiving here in Canada and my Dad needed help taking out the dock and boat hoist Ė another tale altogether but Iíll merely say it involved cold water and heavy lifting, lest I be accused of whining prematurely in this journal Ė I was tapped to make dinner. And what a dinner I made! I made a roast pork with a garlic/ginger crust, teamed with roast potatoes, maple-glazed carrots, sweet potatoes and minted peas with pearl onions. I realized thatís a plethora of root vegetables but Thanksgiving is a fall event and they seemed appropriate. Given that the weather was unseasonably warm, (23 degrees Celsius) I could have copped out and barbequed, but it just wouldnít have seemed right. For dessert my dad had bought a birthday cake (natch) so I didnít have to do any baking. The most impressive part to me is that, other than consulting a magazine for the roasting time of a 4 lb roast pork, I didnít follow any recipes. Yay for me!

I know people who say they wouldnít dare cook anything without a recipe but that attitude isnít fathomable to me, especially for things like meat and vegetables which donít rely on rising agents to get right (I use recipes and donít tinker with them for most baked goods).

Hereís my secret to cooking food (and cutting my hair, incidentally). You have to know what you want the end product to be like. Have you ever seen the Karate Kid? Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi how he makes bonsais and Mr. Miyagi says something like, ďClear your mind and picture Tree. Think of nothing but Tree. Now open your eyes. Make this tree look like Tree.Ē Well I know what I want something to taste like and I put in whatever will make it taste like that. For example, to make chili I put in everything that I feel a good chili should have in it. To make one of my favourite soups, I put in the things that produce flavours I like and complement each other (ginger, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, chili oil, coriander, coconut milk, various vegetables and spices, etc.), then add stock and simmer until the veggies are cooked. Itís not rocket science. If I taste it and something is missing, I add it. There are simply some things that go well together and if you take the time to learn those, and remember that itís easier to add things than take out some of something youíve put too much of, the rest is easy.

Incidentally, I went, as usual, to my motherís for the full-blown Thanksgiving Feast. She and my grandmother were trying to figure out how it is that making the holiday dinner hasnít gotten any faster or easier over the years, despite the practice. I pointed out that dinner has expanded greatly now that my Momís vegetarian. Sure, weíve always done the turkey and stuffing and potatoes and gravy and cranberry sauce and veggie and salad and dessert thing. But this time alone we also had spanikopita, pasta with grilled vegetables and cheese, spicy shrimp stir fry with noodles, pumpkin pie, raspberry mousse, apple strudel and two birthday cakes. They may spend just as much time, if not more, cooking than they used to, but they cook way more stuff. I am no longer asked to bring anything to contribute to the meal; Iím asked to bring friends to help eat it.

I canít say Iím complaining though. Everything was so fabulous, I wish I was a ruminant and had more stomachs to fit it all in.

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