My two favorite soups: bacon-lentil soup and Dakgyejang, Korean spicy chicken soup. I also love the mirepoix-based chicken soup a friend gave me the recipe to, but that usually disappears before I get an opportunity to photograph it.
I like to cook, almost more than I love to eat. I like the soothing and monotonous labor of chopping vegetables. I like the smells and the sizzle of the frying pan, watching pale dough rise and turn golden brown in the oven. I like the feeling of turning raw ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts. When I'm feeling blue, cooking almost always gets me in a better mood.
The trouble with cooking is that the sky is the limit. Watch one episode of How to Cook Like Heston (the summary: no sane person can), or read a couple food blogs... and those are just from the "user-friendly" parts of the internet foodie community. All of a sudden, it seems like nothing will do but to grow your own tomatoes, use wine in every damned thing, grind your own spices, make your pasta from scratch, your own puff pastry dough, your own stock (upwards of 6 hours for 2 or 3 measly quarts of chicken stock, 24 hours for beef, and while 2 quarts sounds like a lot, believe me, that stuff is gone in a flash if you cook more than once a week).
A weeknight meal at Anne's house. I did the watermelon myself too.
Sound fucking crazy? Yeah, it is. I've done all that—except the tomatoes, and I'm sure I would have started my own garden plot at some point if I had, you know, land—and you know what? Those results are totally worth it. You get a pastry so light and flaky, a flavor so rich and complex, a texture so perfectly al dente, that you swear you never want to cook any other way again.
See, the danger with cooking is that your efforts pay off, as in you see immediate results. So even though you've spent the past few hours slaving away in a sweltering kitchen, your apartment is a disaster zone, and you've thrown half a day of precious study time out the window, the moment you take a bite of your creation, that taste shoots a blitz of dopamine straight to your reward centers. And you're hooked.
My new friends
It took a while before I realized I'd gotten myself in over my head, and the first step in my rehabilitation was to swear off broth-making. I tried Knorr Beef Cubes, which tasted like crap. So did Herb-Ox. Then I found the "Better Than Bouillon" brand, while browsing iHerb.
These cost a pretty penny to ship to Korea, but considering one jar is supposed to be 30 or more servings, the price isn't so bad. As for the flavor, I've used both the chicken (in a glaze for stir fry and for cheese sauce) and the beef (in gravy for Swedish meatballs), and they taste pretty much like a really good version of the real thing.
So here's to my newfound freedom, hoping for better grades, a trimmer waistline, and a better balanced life overall.