Allez Cuisine! / 1 June 2001

I’m making burritos (which are like everything I eat: something wrapped in something else — good choice, sir, that’s lobster stuffed with tacos) but this time I find I’m treating the ingredients roughly, manhandling them, throwing spices at a wide range of pots, hustling from one side of the kitchen to the other, chopping with violence, making meat squeal, flipping jagged knives from one hand to the other without looking, stirring aggressively, swearing under my breath, wiping bloody perspiration from my br—

Interrupted just now by a knocking, the knocker young and well-dressed, sporting a tie and an early-era 90210 male hairstyle, the interaction transcribed in its entirety for your reference: KNOCKER: Sorry to— ME: [lengthy, noisy bout of coughing] KN.: Yes, this is … are you OK? ME: [wiping eyes] KN.: Well, this is sort of a strange question, but do you golf? I mean— ME: You have absolutely no idea who you’re talking to right now, do you. KN.: Uh, no, no, I, well, my name is James… [extends a pamphlet emblazoned with a stylized golf ball] ME: Sometimes my grandfather would let me drive the golf cart. I’d wear thongs. I’d … I always liked using the ball-washer, you know those things? JAMES: Yes, yes, I sure do. ME: Beautiful day for it. Thanks. [snatching pamphlet, closing door slowly, so slowly]

—ow with the heel of my callused, cut-up hand. That’s when I realize that I’m trying to be an Iron Chef. I mean, it’s just a burrito and I’ve dirtied the entire kitchen, the floor completely covered with flour, something I wasn’t even using.

Up till now I approached the process like the young turk Canadian trying to win the big show in Paris, like he had a chance, like they’re not gonna give it to a local boy, handcrafting delicate little constructions, using specialized tools and tins to place every tiny carrot sliver or dollop of liver paste just so — I mean, you remember how I was. And people would eat my supercomplex concoctions and nod and go home full, but that night as they were lying in bed with their lovers, they’d all be thinking the same thing: Where is the passion?

So I threw away the measuring cups and spoons and set an egg timer on top of the stove. I now give myself three minutes to complete the entire meal, and the experience is so much more visceral, so much more alive. I work in a frenzy, blind, rubbing meats and vegetables into my face, letting them pass through my fingerprints and pores, communing on a molecular level so we can understand each other, the ingredients and I, physically, spiritually, psychosexually. The rest of the day I’m soulless, heartless, lashing out at loved ones, bitter and vindictive, creatively and emotionally bankrupt — but for those three minutes I’m a vibrating angel of pure delight. The resulting turkey sandwiches are revelatory, yes, but more importantly, they’re throbbing with lascivious vigor.

Joshua Green Allen

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