Adventures in Cooking

Three days ago Tim and I packed up our entire lives, squeezed them tightly into a 2001 green Ford Explorer and parted with sunny Snowmass Village, Colorado, where I’ve called home for almost two years now, en route to our final destination of Portland, Oregon.

Oregon Bound

With the windows rolled down blaring tunes from Bob Seger and Paul Simon, we headed out west through Carbondale, Paonia and up through the stunning Red Mountain pass as the skies turned to gray and snow began to fall, heavily, as if to bid us one last farewell to the Mountain State.

Summit of Red Mountain Pass

The descent turned the snowfall into a rain heavy enough to soak the boardbags strapped to the top of the car as we trucked on through Durango, where we were hinted towards a campsite just outside of town that, upon arrival, I deemed too wet and cold to assemble our tent in the darkness of the wilderness.  Thus we drove into the later hours of the night, the mountainous landscape fading into an endlessly flat and seemingly abandoned desert where warmer as it was, felt uncomfortable and unwelcoming to outsiders.  Our eyelids now heavy, we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  This situation we had found ourselves in, opting to sleep sitting up in our packed car, doors locked, on the side of the highway for the few hours before the sun began to rise, was our first indication that we were surely in for an adventure.

Sunrise in the Arizona Desert

The next two days was smooth sailing with a few bumps along the way, cruising through an empty landscape of red rock formations scattered sparsely with green bushes and barbed wire fences, an occasional small settlement of trailers and abandoned cars to break the monotonous beauty.

Utah/Arizona Desert

We stopped for a few humble meals, to play on the beaches of Sand Hollow and Lake Powell for a few hours and to give the puppy some exercise, but it came easy.

Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah Border

Sand Hollow, Utah

Our car performed well at a steady pace of fifty five miles an hour, no faster, we found a beautiful camping spot among cacti and pink sand dunes, and even came across a place to take a shower and use the wireless connection.

Camping in Ponderosa Grove, Utah Border

Cooking steak and rice for dinner

Yesterday, we arrived in Las Vegas to spend a couple days with Tim’s extended family, where we can enjoy the comforts of normalcy before hitting the road.  Ironically, it was once we stopped moving and regained our sense of comfort that we once again found ourselves underneath that rock: among the walled communities and sprawling streets of North Vegas, the bearing on our car had broken and it needed immediate repair.  Life: 1, Tim and Emma:0.

The unpredictibility of adventure is something that I thrive on.  It’s the spontaneity in adventure that ignite my highest highs and my lowest lows.  It is a feeling that I bask in on my adventurous victories, an overwhelming relief and satisfaction that I can float on after enduring  problematic situations, and at the very least a gripping story that I can one day tell.

It is this adventurous spirit that comes alive when I backpack through another country, when I road trip around the country, and is even even mildly invoked when I do anything outside of my normal routine and comfort zone.  Most recently, though, it’s the way I feel when I step into my kitchen with an idea of what to cook.

My hope is to continue to find adventure in my cooking.  To be spontaneous, to be creative, and to always be thinking on my feet and developing an instinct for which flavors and ingredients pair well together.  And to be okay with setbacks and mistakes in the kitchen.  This is something that I learned first-hand a few days before leaving Snowmass.

It is with this adventurous spirit that I attempted to create a dish the other day and failed miserably.  I boiled sunchokes and purple potatoes in some veggie and beet broth using scraps from previous meals.

Once tender, I threw them in a blender and added the broth, salt and pepper in an attempt to create a pureed soup.  Not only did the purple potatoes combined with the pink beet broth create a strawberry smoothie-like appearance, but it was slimy with an aftertaste of moldy smelly gym socks, literally, that would not leave my mouth even after spitting it out.  I kid you not, it was terrible.  It was foul.  So much so that it went straight the sink without hesitation.  But not without the guilt of wasting and absolutely letting down those beautiful ingredients that I had started with. The low that I felt about my cooking abilities at that moment was a low reminiscent of the time I missed my flight in Costa Rica, when I got on the wrong bus in Ecuador, or when our car broke down in Vegas.

It occurred to me: why is it that in the wonderful world of food blogging nobody ever writes a post about a cooking experience in which they failed miserably?  Inevitably every cook messes up at some point, and it’s those moments in particular in which one learns the most and grows both personally and culinarily.  It’s also this way that I feel about my adventures, that all low moments bring life lessons and memories that shouldn’t be forgotten or thrown to the wayside.

So for now, we are here in Las Vegas and will be here until our car gets fixed.  And you know what?  It could be worse: we could have been stuck out in the middle of the desert with no cell phone reception, fifty miles from anything that even remotely resembles a town to get help.  And with the soup, it could have been worse as well.  I could have been making a meal for my friends or family and royally f***ed up, or my wasted ingredients could have been a whole lot more expensive.  Something my mom always taught me was that sometimes in life you just have to say what the f*** ever, and move on.

And this also goes for the kitchen.  If you mess up, deal with it, learn from it, and move on.

The adventure continues…


2 responses

  1. What an amazing post. I felt like I was there on the trip with you and Tim. I loved the way you related your cooking experience the good and the bad to the very adventure of life itself. I too love the adventure of life, the good and the bad when you look back on it, lift you to a higher place inside. I now can look at my cooking disasters not like I failed, but as a step to reaching higher in my culinary efforts. Thanks Emma Kemp.

  2. Pingback: Cherry Rhubarb Compote | nosuchrecipe

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