Relationships: Man Trap # 1: Can You Cook? by Kyle Phoenix

Why am I sharing all of this food insanity?

People don't understand when they're hunting MSM that most people have someone in their childhood who can cook.  Their mom, their dad, their grandmother and nothing brings home-love like a home where a man knows the kitchen is part of the constant seduction.  Cooking together, shopping together, the togetherness and sensuality of feeding a lover is wonderful.  In fact it can also be a tour through each others cultures.  I can cook French food, Greek food, Spanish food, Soul Food, American, Italian, Turkish, Caribbean, etc. and every kind of meat and shellfish (my shrimp scampi is buttery love) and fish (though I'm not a big fish fan I can hook up salmon!).  I watch Ina Garten, The Barefoot Countessa, and her husband Geoffrey? That man LOVES her!  Why?  Have you seen her throw down in the kitchen and get dinner ready for him as that little man is speeding up Hampton, Long Island roads with a bottle of wine?  MSM don't understand that sex, cute, and a dollar extra, have all been replaced in every man's head by a good, loving meal.  All of my parents (mother, grandmother, godparents, father, stepfathers) have told me that if you can cook you can always get some love and you know what?

I can cook!  

I will HURT you in the kitchen.  I will go gangsta Julia Child meets Chopped by way of Top Chef through Martha Stewart on you!

I once made Osso Buco with beef and lamb shanks for  a boyfriend once a week for 6 months until I'd perfected that recipe.  The secret?  After the initial making and braising of the shanks, I do a light baking on 200 degrees,  overnight and then in the morning put them into a slow cooker with a bottle of wine and go away for 12 hours. You come home and the house is warm and smells like love!

I've been cooking for over 20 years, since I was about 7.  I was both a latchkey kid and an only child so I was responsible for myself for a few hours after school at an early age.  After a few horrible experiments to cook and my disdain with my parents either doing lots of take-out or constantly taking me to restaurants for dinner, I rebelled and demanded to learn how to cook.  The deal was simple---I could only cook what I'd been taught how to make and couldn't experiment otherwise.  DEAL!

Patti LaBelle released a cookbook in the 1990's and I got it  and went to town.  I had to cut her Peach Cobbler recipe at so many cups of sugar and sticks of butter---because I didn't want folk to die but she lead me into my 8 Cheese Baked Mac and Cheese.  She does 7.  I do 8!  I don't make it often, maybe once every year, because it's death in a pan.  But once a year, I just give up for that week.  I try to make it for donation dinners so I get a wedge but not the whole thing as leftovers.

For about a year or two as a child chef, I had two major confusions: fried chicken and rice.  I kept trying to fry chicken and it was only after my grandmother showed me how, that I understood: you need flour to coat chicken to make it fried.  And rice---I once got into an all out argument with a man I was living with because I couldn't explain to him how you made rice.  I'd been cooking rice by instinct for decades and simply couldn't explain how much water you put in or how I figured out how much rice to pour in or how I could cook it to perfection so that it fell from the fork in individual grains.

Chili!  Fun, fun, fun!  But a chili-fest becomes a possible gumbo or a jambalaya or a stew or a soup!  I like to use multiple meats in all of them and different kinds of beans.  I have a potato, cannelloni, celery and bacon sliver soup recipe!  Oooh, oooh and my Curry Tang Mein soup with shrimp, leeks and a variety of mushrooms!

In high school my mother surprised me at home with the announcement that she'd promised to do the food for a Chamber of Commerce group---100 people, collected the cash and now I had four days to pull together the menu.  She offered me $50 for my work and I got busy.  4 kinds of chicken, greens, rice, veggies and several kinds of pies.  During the serving line my mother promptly took credit for all the cooking because no one would probably have believed that I'd done it at 16.

For a year I practiced making omelettes.  I was about 10.  I spent hours after school learning how to mix in veggies and meat and cheese and how to do the perfect flip over.

Later in college I politely explained to the Financial Aid office that I was an orthodox Muslim and could only eat Hallah meat (killed by an Imam) and my whole food financial aid budget was released to me.   $1200 a semester.  I would stroll by my schoolmates, they had been routinely fed at 6pm and were sitting chewing on chips and cookies.  I would turn out the floor kitchen and stroll by at 8pm with a steak and lobster dinner.  You'd be surprised how far $1200 can go when you have it for one person!  I later set up burners, a toaster oven, a microwave and two small fridges in my private room and one time had not only 7 RA's but three Public Safety Officers sitting around eating some curry chicken I'd pulled together.  (Cooking was illegal by dormitory rules in one's room.  You have never seen people lick their fingers so hard sitting under not one, but two smoke detectors that I had covered with plastic bags.)

Then I got obsessed with multi-layer cakes.  My insanest was a 10 layer cake but each layer I used food coloring to vary them and then covered with white butter cream.  When you sliced it, it was a rainbow.  I was 16, my aunt thought I was crazy.

For a handful of years I was a coordinator for a men's group three times a week and had a small budget that I would supplement.  Generally there were about 20 to 40 men present and I enjoyed the challenge of chipping in a few bucks of my own to round out a full meal.  I also felt that spiritually it was a way of deeply giving to people.  People never understand how there's a deep peace to cooking and then watching others enjoy it.  To all of the domestic arts of making a home feel loving, there is a peace that can be shared.

I stole a recipe/stunt from my aunt.  Sometimes to make fried chicken special I open up the skin and stuff it with peppers and onions then seal and fry, keeps the meat juicy and adds a delightful taste to biting into chicken.  My roast chickens are stuffed and brined or marinated in all kinds of creative madness!

For about a decade I used to host dinner parties (the largest all 50 people invited showed up!) and I would cook from scratch.  Eventually I got it down to 4 people or a nice 12---and they would come from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New Jersey to my spot in Flushing for my cooking.  That's when I got serious with entertaining.  I started buying some catered platters from a great restaurant so I could have more time with the entree.

I lost my mind a few years ago with developing all the different things I could use jerk spice with.  Chicken, pork chunks, beef, steaks, pork roasts!  Love!  It's great for dirty rice and then when you curry a meat or even goat.  Neck bones and ham hocks!  Wait, wait, wait---you don't know collard greens until you've had mine.  I mix kale, collard and mustard greens but first I make a golden roux then stew the meat bones ,drain them and then cook the greens down in that with onions, peppers and a few cabbage slices for color.

I've stolen attention, and once or twice, affection because I can feed a man.  There's a Thanksgiving story, an absent roommate and a beautiful poet that I shan't repeat.  Suffice to say, there was a lot of snacking going on while that turkey roasted.

Baking!  Cheese biscuits with melted cheddar/pepperjack cheese and salsa---from scratch!  Pies--apple, peach, pumpkin, sweet potato, meat!  Quiches!  Croissants! ( I have to admit my mother taught me how to make these from scratch.  My mother can cook, she just doesn't care to.)  I went through a baking phase and became consumed with pie crusts.

As you can see I become obsessed with things 'til I achieve a level of mastery around it.  My parents by the time I was 12 had put me in charge of the weekly shopping and part of how I made my allowance was having dinner ready when they got home. The wonderful skill this gave me, that I would later actually use when I briefly was the Sunday chef as a bistro outside of Philly, was how to cook well for myself and others.  To share my joy and see the palpable joy in the faces of friends, family, adults and children....and yes, lovers.

You feed a man right and he'll know that you can love him inside and outside.

I've taken a bit of a rest from large scale cooking, particularly since going back to school because I just didn't want the distraction and the absorption that it can turn into being to have dinner parties and even experiment.  Its been nice to go more to my favorite old and new restaurants and to buy prepared meals from supermarkets like Westside Market here in NYC.  But I'm gearing up and maybe once or twice a month I go into the kitchen, and I make a little sweet love in the kitchen, with the kitchen.

We're not even going to go near how Fresh Direct is like manna from Heaven to me.......

Thank you,
Kyle Phoenix
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