Maxed out 

Nourishing life through the kitchen

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One of life's great pleasures is food. Eating some alone or with friends or simply flinging it around a crowded cafeteria, food has a special place in all our lives; if it didn't, we'd do something else three times a day and restaurants would probably all be T-shirt stores.

Personally, I'm down with food. Not being an organized religion kind of guy, my relationship to it may well be spiritual... how would I know. Without food, I'd probably need another job or a few new hobbies. Not that I have what you'd call a live to eat relationship; more a eat to live one, but monogamous and all-consuming, if you know what I mean. It was not always thus.

My first insight into this relationship came, as so many did, in university. Having moved off campus, ostensibly to embrace a greater degree of both freedom and responsibility - but really just to party our heads off - one of the first responsibilities I embraced was feeding myself. It turned out to be a responsibility I was sorely unprepared for, something that came as a shock to me considering I'd been eating food for something like 19 years. This utter lack of preparation was driven home when my longtime friend and housemate, Bill Logan, and I turned to each other and simultaneously said, "So, whaddya know how to cook?"

The answer was a joint and pathetic, "Not much." Dinner that night was canned chili over spaghetti. Filling, but somehow lacking in culinary nuance, its shortcomings were no impediment to it becoming our signature dish, overshadowed as they were by our combined skill at preparing actual meals. We both considered it a culinary watershed when one of us thought to shake Kraft parmesanlike sawdust over it. "Wow! Now if we only knew how to make salad," I exclaimed between enthusiastic mouthfuls.

That's when I decided I'd better learn how to cook, Bill having shown no inclination to do so and from all outward appearances seeming to be capable of actually living off cheap beer and Screaming Yellow Zonkers. "How hard can it be," I said, drawing strength from the sum total of my cooking experience, which pretty much amounted to having spent years not paying attention while my mom made countless meals.

The third time the fire department showed up - at the frantic behest of a concerned neighbour I'd like to point out since I still firmly believe everything was, well, if not under control at least nowhere near the flash point - they invited me down to the firehall for a cooking lesson. Or so they said. I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that for all their seeming benevolence, firemen can be really sadistic, sloppy cooks when they have someone not from their ranks they plan to stick with doing the dishes. Ironically, in an adding insult to injury way, they taught me how to cook chili. They also offered to have me back when they were cooking stew but my dermatologist advised against it.

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