Finding Balance ~ Lessons Gary Taught Me

I believe that in all things in life you have to find balance. Balance helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle in all areas. Emotional balance helps you enjoy the good times and deal with the rough times. Nutritional balance helps you feel good and find and maintain your body’s balanced weight. Now, I don’t pretend I am there, but I am on the road to it. Just like anything else in life, it is a journey. Balance in cooking, for me, is finding the keeper, but still continuing to be creative in the kitchen.

Barry and I have a friend who is a CIA grad. Yup, Culinary Institute of America. He is a chef by trade but I met him at work in a school. He was Director of Buildings and Grounds at the last school district I worked for. We became friends at work, then outside of work. He and my hubby have done wonderful projects together, such as remodeling our bathroom and painting their house.

We have also shared many a meal in the course of our friendship. As a trained chef, I expected Gary to be highly critical of the food and the preparation. He wasn’t. Gary’s lessons (that he doesn’t know he taught me) were simple and basic. First, he watches for cleanliness. We were in a local haunt and he saw the waiter pick up a plate and set it down, then lick his finger… EEUUWW… I have to admit I missed it, but Gary has a watchful and critical eye. I know, yuck.

Next, Gary likes food that tastes good. He loves good flavor but not fancy food. I love when I have made a keeper for Gary. No accolades, no praise. He simply has seconds. And if it is REALLY DELICIOUS he may say, “This is good.” Success!

There is a good family story about a Christmas a few years ago when Boyfriend treated us by cooking a scrumptious dinner: a shrimp dish with a light saffron sauce over angel hair pasta. After Gary had seconds, we told Mike about his training. We thought he would flip! He said if he had known … Well, we told him, that is why we didn’t say! Gary loved it… he had seconds! Nuff said.

Lastly, I think the thing that sticks with me about Gary’s opinion of a restaurant… is consistency. He likes knowing that he can go to a restaurant and order a dish and it will taste consistently good and consistently the same. Now that means that trendy little places that offer seasonal fare are not on the top of his list. All of the favorite places we eat together with Gary and Jannetta are clean, tasty, and consistent.

When I cook for Gary and Jannetta, I make sure to remember these tenets. I am obsessive about a clean kitchen… check! I love to make tasty food … check!  And before I realized rule three I tried many new recipes when they came to eat. Now I make tasty food from my clean kitchen and with keepers ~ keeping it consistent. In fact, there a dishes they (and especially Gary) really like so I try to make them often when they come to eat.

One of Gary’s favorites is on my menu for dinner tonight. It is also one of my daughter Tammy’s favorites, garlic dill potatoes, AKA smashy potatoes. I have shared my need to steer clear of the carbs, but Barry still loves and deserves to have some treats. And since life is about balance, I do occasionally indulge in a taste of potato, so when I do it has to be tasty. These potatoes are just that. So for anyone who have been reading and has come to expect the lighter side… look away! These are decadent, but so simple.

Boil up the potatoes you like. I usually use red potatoes for this and when I make them for Gary I peel them. (He has strong feelings about this!) You need to actually over boil them! This makes them smashy. After they are drained, put them back on the burner on low and add butter. Now when you think you have added enough butter, add more. Salt and pepper please. Also add garlic and dill to taste. For me this is a TON of dill and a moderate amount of garlic, not just a hint. Let the heat do it’s job but stir… and stir again. The over cooked potato gets ‘smashy’ and the butter almost makes it soupy with chunks. The salt, pepper, garlic and dill make it delicious!

True to the rule of consistency, I make these the same every time. I will tease that there is no improving upon perfection, but the truth is that this is a dish that is a keeper and should be left alone. In fairness to your friends, if you are thinking about changing up a favorite recipe, talk about it over a shared meal where you have made it exactly the same way you always do. Either your friends will express an interest in your thought, or they will protest madly and explain to you why your food is perfect and you shouldn’t change a thing!

Now you are thinking… but you always say… Be Creative! YES! Do be creative, but balance it with knowing that your friends should not be your guinea pigs! And when you invite your friends, you should offer them the things they love. If you want to offer something new, makes sure there are choices… then invoke the Two Bite Rule and make them try it!

So, as with many other things in life, find balance. For me, that means tonight I get some potato! How about you?