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The Reality of Cooking


"What am I doing here?" I wondered silently, twenty minutes into a registered cooking class from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. The intention was an opportunity for my husband and I to prepare and ultimately consume a four-course Thai dinner along with 12 others: families with adult children, some Williamsburg hipsters and a couple from Westchester. Acknowledging my fear, I removed my sweatshirt, donned my apron and hoped that the evening would feel more like a date night and less like a dare night.

Determined not to be overwhelmed or discouraged, I listened carefully to the instructions of Chef Richard and learned about the various ingredients we would be using. An amenable agreement with the couple from Westchester had my spouse and I handling the summer rolls and Pad Thai while they tackled the yellow chicken curry, beef satay with spicy peanut sauce and tapioca pudding with young coconut.

But more of an organizer and less like a sous-chef, I watched the clock tick by, delivering produce, spices, pastes, pastas and oils to our work station and did all that I could to cut, mix, and prepare all the fixings while my husband lead some of the tougher preparations including that of any proteins.

It's official. I am not embarrassed to say that the closest I have ever come to this kind of experience is watching the reality shows of Bravo and the Food Network. But now I have newfound respect for the contestants — especially as the clock ran down. I was half hoping and half expecting Chef Richard to shout, "Times up! Knives down!" somewhere between my humbling seeding of spicy Thai red peppers and my treatment of julienne cucumbers. But a 6 p.m. start time had us seated and eating at about 9:30 p.m. that evening.

The evening was a great idea on paper — like a new recipe. But like the demands of a new recipe, I had some bumps in the road when working in the class and getting things just right. I don't know if I have what it takes to return to this kitchen. But if I do, familiarity will see me through. After all, like a new dish, I'd suspect the experience might "taste" better the second time around. 

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.