I was having a moment of insecurity this morning. I was wearing a dress, because I wanted to, but in my lounge, then rush out the door, I didn’t look in the mirror. Most days I don’t really care, but as I was rubbing lotion into my dry legs, I just couldn’t. In the parking lot at work, I went to the trunk of my car and pulled out my emergency pair of jeans and t-shirt. I got dressed in the front seat of my car and had a moment of laughter because it reminded me of my entire adolescence.
I’m wearing this and not sure how comfortable I am in it either. I may go back out the car and change again. I haven’t decided. The jeans are shorter than I like. I like my denim to be Victorian and cover my ankles. The shirt is a blue and white tie dye. I loved the way it reminded me of decades past, but wearing it in public? Not so much. Especially when a quick glance in office lighting tells you what color my bra is. I need to update my trunk wardrobe so I feel confident, in another wardrobe emergency.
The lesson here? If you wouldn’t love it every day, it shouldn’t be your emergency clothing. How does that apply to cooking?
Lesson 1: If it’s not good enough on its own, it’s not good enough in emergencies or as a foundation.
In cooking, I might deglaze a pan after searing meat with a dry red wine. Or if I’m making beef stew or marinating carne asada, I use beer. You don’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink. Bad ingredients can only make a bad meal. If you don’t want to drink your wine, don’t cook with it. If I’m using beer that has gluten in it, it won’t be worth the taste if I’m begging for death because of an unhappy belly.
Lesson 2: Don’t over crowd your pan.
Cooking anything often requires the right temperature and the space for your heating surface to do the job. We want space so a sear doesn’t become a sauté. We need space to give what’s cooking a moment to enjoy the heat.
In fashion to me, this means parts are covered while something else is exposed. A long and conservative dress begs for strappy heels. If I’m showing off my décolletage, I’m covering up my legs. If my legs are being showcased, I’m wearing a high neckline.
Lesson 3: Only sausage needs to be stuffed.
Often when stuffing pork chops or chicken breasts, I will pound and beat out the meat I’m using so it’s thinner and keep the stuffing on the light side. I use medium heat that has had time to get to the right temperature because I want it to cook all the way through without over drying the outside. It means cooking takes more time, and I’m intentional with what I do. I won’t wear underwear that is meant to make me feel like a stuffed sausage so my body looks a certain way. If I don’t do that to a spinach and cheese beef roulade, why would I do that to my body? Sausage is made for being stuffed into a tight skin.
Lesson 4: Creaming
When wearing makeup, you want to blend. You want soufflé foundations to melt into your skin, but not be so thick it could melt right off. You want shadows that dance so closely, you can’t tell where one shade ends and the next begins. Moisturizer is important. Healthy skin is more important when makeup skills like mine are at play.
I bake my cheesecakes. I get the cream cheese to room temperature, and I will beat in eggs, sugar and vanilla. By the time I’m done, you can’t differentiate what is in it because it is all the same consistency and texture. It bakes and requires patience to cool. If you’ve ever been impatient in waiting for a hot cheesecake to cool, you understand how horrible that can be. You want the same patience in blending foundation into your skin, going past your chin and along your neck. Like cheesecake, that much make up on me is rare.
Lesson 5: Lumps
Honor your lumps!
In pancakes or cornbread, I will often sift the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredients. It’s a quick mix that just incorporates everything because overmixing won’t give you fluffy breads. Over mixing makes it dense and tough.
A woman’s body is made for lumpy bits. I hate wearing a belt, but when it matters, cinching my waist enhances my bustling and flatters my hips. My hair doesn’t look as great stick straight as it does with the natural bounce and body of a good wave or girly curls.
Lesson 6: The mystery you don’t want to know.
Sometimes you just don’t need to know what goes into it. When I make tamales, I use Lard. I use cleaned animal fat because that’s where the flavor is. I use the unhealthy fat because that’s how I learned how to make tamales.
When I’m wearing clothes, you don’t need to see my bra. There are really cute bralettes that are designed to be seen, but they don’t carry them in my size. (Thank you for that endowment, Mom and Nanny.) When I wear a shirt, I want to be sure that my bra can’t be seen. There are amazing advances in lingerie that include strapless and convertible bras. I own a couple of corsets but can’t wear them without help. These are designed to be worn under clothes or alone, but that doesn’t mean I should wear them out.
Lesson 7: A time and a place for everything.
I have absolute moments of food joy. I have been known to whip up a quick Hollandaise in the blender before work and bring the rest of my goodies with me to assemble an eggs benedict at my desk. This is not the same meal I would ever take to the beach. Beach food is often cut fresh fruit, crudités, chips and drinks. Small, manageable, and not requiring cutlery.
You want your clothes to match your adventure. I’m all for spontaneity, but bowling in a mini skirt is not nearly as fun as it sounds. Walking along a jetty in stilettos can be real torture. Wear the clothes you need for your adventure.
Lesson 8: Get Creative
It’s easy to get stuck in routine where the same outfit and accessories feel like home. Change it up. The beauty of not wearing a jumpsuit all the time is that your tops are not married to your bottoms. I don’t often wear dresses or skirts to work because comfortable to me often looks like man spreading and it’s not very lady like.
In food, this means I was hugely surprised when I swapped vanilla for almond extract in my French Toast. Smoked Gouda and dates was a whim that became a staple. I used to love cheddar popcorn and chocolate and one day swapped the cheddar popcorn for spicy chips. It was good.
Lesson 9: Be flexible
Sometimes I’ll start with something but it might change. I recently bought a pound of ground pork and the same amount of ground beef, but instead of making the meat loaf my kids weren’t in the mood for, I made country fried steaks and used the ground meat for potsticker filling that used rice paper instead of wonton wrappers. It made me happy. It made the boys happy.
I don’t always care about fashion, but these things are in the back of my mind when I get dressed most days. I ignore what my mood tells me to and stick to what feels right. And the bra being seen through my shirt . . . Yeah, I’m slapping that dress back on.