“You go, girl. Yeah, have that extra scoop of ice cream. Damn straight. You made it, after all.”
That’s my chorus of you-go-girl girls in the back of my mind. They like to cheer, so I try to give them every opportunity to. They can be so feisty if I don’t:
“I hope you enjoyed every minute of throwing away your quarters to skee-ball all night. And what was that whole margarita thing after 5 drinks for? Do you NEED to wake up at 3pm the next day so that you can get zero accomplished and watch TV all day? Or should I say evening?”
I don’t know exactly where they come from. I was never good at sports, nor was I particularly clever at dissing, so I don’t think I’ve gotten a genuine “You go, girl” in those areas. Maybe I’m deprived. But girl, sports player, quick wit or not, most of us have some type of rewards system that sticks with us. It may have been instilled from a very early age: Eat your spinach, have the cookie. Do your homework, watch more TV. Help clean the dishes every day for two weeks, and maybe you can get that pet turtle. Keep feeding that turtle, and maybe you’ll get to play with it longer as it won’t die. How does this sense of deserving translate to the grown-up world? Well, most people would say that they work hard for money that they use to pay for their needs and wants. Work harder and climb the ladder at work, and you’ll make more money, and get more (or fancier) needs and wants — like fancier food. But those of us who haven’t climbed that ladder at work or make that kind of money yet can still have our treats if we just work out a way to make them ourselves.
“Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?” asks Henry David Thoreau in Walden. When I think of the pleasure of construction, it strikes me as not only the act of working, but knowing that you’re achieving something through sweat and toil that’s useful, necessary, and hopefully even beautiful or expressive of oneself. Which is not very far off from the feeling I get from cooking — especially in the hot summer months of New York at my tiny, windowless kitchen.
I have to say, food just tastes better when you know how much effort you put into it. It’s like the “wow” flavor note that naturally embeds itself into a dish, and it is just the secret ingredient that distinguishes your food from the all rest in the world. It’s painfully missing in everything from five star-rated restaurant dishes to your mom’s best home cooking. And the best part is, no one else can taste it but you. You go.