Let’s rewind.

I always thought being stood up was the stuff of myths, horror stories and really bad teen romcoms. By the time mid July swung around, I had been stood up not once, not twice, but three times – by the same guy, no less! I know what you’re thinking: You’re beautiful, intelligent and unbelievably witty (oh stop, we’ve only just met!). How do you let a guy get away with that three fricken times?!”

You have to understand it had been a very strange year. All of my friends had coupled up. If they weren’t in long-term relationships, they were engaged; If they weren’t engaged, they were getting married; If they weren’t getting married, they were bringing home their new bundles of joy and dirty nappies. So in the spirit of sharing, here is my confession.

(deep breath now)

I was feeling a bit lost.

Okay, fine! A lot lost.

Every day I came home from work feeling lethargic and wondering when, if ever, I’d see this guy. My nerves finally got to me and I declared: I have to do something. I armed myself with a deeply discounted copy of The Silver Spoon (thanks for all the good times, Borders). This book may be a tome, but it’s a glorious one, chock full of Italian recipes organized primarily by course and main ingredient. I decided I would start with something I liked and was theoretically easy – risotto. The vegetable risotto seemed fairly basic: arborio rice, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, vegetable stock (see page 209).

Wait a second. “See page 209”? Was this cookbook actually suggesting I make my own vegetable stock? What craziness was this? “The Silver Spoon Book of Kitchen Shenanigans” was more like it. Of course I flipped to page 209 and read through the recipe. Turnips? Leeks? Those were foreign grocery market veggies I skipped over. As I set up a very rough mise en place that Wednesday night, my mother gawked. “Turnips? Yuck! What are those for?”

To make a very long night a shorter story, dinner was served at 9:30pm, but it was served and it was delicious. I learned how to prepare leeks, tell if a turnip is ready to be eaten, and, oh yes, make vegetable risotto.

My cannonball into cooking had taught me two things:

  1. I can cook! Nothing was burned, undercooked, overcooked or revolting. There was a basic recipe, I followed it and then we ate. Cooking is every man’s alchemy and I can do it.
  2. Everything we ate that night came from my own hands. Lest you think that’s my not-so-modest attempt at a pat on the back, let me clarify. I knew exactly how everything had been prepared. An hour after holding leeks and turnips in my hands for the first time, I was pouring their stock. I had been empowered by a vegetable stock, and I’m not ashamed to say it. With the right equipment and ingredients, I can make anything I want to eat.

I have always loved food, the act of sitting down to a meal with family, friends, strangers or no one but myself. For all the time I have spent in restaurants, I have predominantly been a spectator. Constructing a dinner dish from the ground up was a completely new endeavor, and while I don’t see myself creating specials for Del Posto, embracing how much there is to learn continues to be absolutely inspiring.

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