• Mercedes Benstock

More Coco Chanel than Coq Au Vin.

Updated: Apr 12

Indolent (ˈɪndələnt) — adj 1. disliking work or effort; lazy; idle (aka me for my four days of nonblogging. So please excuse and enjoy the very long and informative post)

I was just in the deepest sleep of my life (there’s no such place, like home). Until my dad came knocking down my door, asking for my car keys. To drive himself to the gym… at 6 am. Multiple times in my life I have wished to have my fathers work ethic, or my grandfathers. However I find myself in a quarter life crisis, with an indecisive personality. Whenever I’m home on Long Island, I wish to return to Manhattan and whenever I’m in Manhattan I miss my family. Whenever I work, I wish I wasn’t working and whenever I don’t work, I wish I was. You get the jist.

On a happier note, or fattier I should say thanksgiving was yesterday. Usually for thanksgiving my family heads into NYC. We stay at The St Regis, watch the parade and eat at Adour Alain Ducasse ( within the St Regis) this avoids arguments, stress, and food poisoning from my mothers cooking. It’s a tradition. This year was different though, we stayed home on Long Island. My mom brought a turkey (as well as 3D turkey name holders), vegetables and potatoes. After nine years of living in the states, she was ready to give her British version of a thanksgiving dinner.

Almost 24 hours later, I’m happy to say that no one died from her cooking (except the turkey). Growing up my mom never cooked, so when she does it is a very rare/scary experience. Everyone always says that women have to cook to be good wives (and blah blah blah.). So recently I have tested my own cooking skills.

I never took home ec, or cooking classes in high school. So when I say I’m a beginner (chef) who googles terms like “saute” and what “lemon zest?” is, I’m not kidding. In 10th grade I told my boyfriend (at the time) that I would cook him an Italian dinner. I went to stop and shop and got ingredients to make lasagna. Tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, the lasagna pieces, crushed red pepper, mozzarella and everything in between. I was feeling confident, and all Martha Stewart. My mom agreed to let me use the kitchen, and took my siblings out so that I could be a great girlfriend and cook Italian for my non Italian boyfriend (which doesn’t make much sense either). Unbeknown to me, you had to cook the lasagna noodles before you prepared it. So long story short, I had assembled lasagna without cooking it first, and the whole thing came out rock hard. Smelling delicious.Yet inedible. Just like your hot gay best friend, so date-able, so superb, so compassionate (for moments when Barneys tell you they no longer have the Manolo Blanc suede pump in a size 7) and yet untouchable. And more in love with Brad Pitt than you ever were 5 years ago. That was my lasagna.

Luckily I had cooked early enough so that if things went wrong, I would have a backup plan. I was 16 at the time, and had a budget. So without hesitation I googled Mario’s pizza, and ordered two homemade lasagnas. They came fairly quickly, so I managed to slide them into a glass dish and stuck it in my unheated oven. When my ex finally came, I told him dinner would be ready in 15 minutes and briskly turned my oven on. He was smitten when he found out I cooked, and even more so when he tried the delicious “homemade” lasagna that I had been cooking all day. I then had the title of a “good cook” with a time frame of 20 minutes (all screw ups aside), mess free, ingredient free, and virtually a free pass on a good meal. I had fallen in love. Why cook, when you can get somewhere else to do it for you? Throw it in a dish, and take credit (after all you did have to re-heat it up). To this day my ex never knows I didn’t cook, and probably never will unless reading this post. As Sarah Jessica Parker once said ” more Coco Chanel than coq au vin” and if I were a man, I would much rather prefer Gabrielle over coq au vin..even if it does mean storing shoes in the oven and ordering take out for the next 360 days.

Then there was the penne alla vodka scenario. I was dating an 100% Italian boy ( born and raised in the US). My friends had always warned me to never date an Italian. 1) because their mama’s boys 2) you would have bad in laws if you wasn’t Italian and they hated you and 3) you’re cooking will never be as good as there mothers. I was never one to listen, so I brushed it off and continued to google recipes for the next 2 &1/2 hours. I managed to find a five star penne alla vodka recipe online, which had about 684 positive reviews. I figured that if 684 people in the world can do it, so could i. So I set out on an adventure to the food emporium midtown and brought a variety of items to decorate my fridge with (other than the Grey Goose, Verve Cliquot and eye masks). I came back to my apartment and shortly after the chef critic “Italian Stallion” (as he referred to himself as) arrived. I put on a football game, led him to my couch and demanded he stay put. Apparently those simple directions were to hard to follow because within seconds i found him standing behind me, critiquing how to make REAL penne alla Vodka.

About 40 minutes later, constant interferal, wise remarks and one angry women (me) the sauce was almost done. I had put garlic bread in the oven and then Mr “Italian Stallion” stood up and quote: said ” I’m not eating that. How about you cook your version and I will cook mine, and then we can compare whose is better?” I sat there flabbergasted, and for .5 minutes thought the audacious comment was a joke, until he tried to take over my kitchen. I then smelt something burning, and had remembered that the garlic bread was on 500 degrees and on broil in my oven. Close to flames, hard as a brick, and pitch black describes the outcome of that bread. I tried to work around it, cutting off the black bits with scissors but as you can imagine, this didn’t really work out to good. Nonetheless, I decided to put the bread on the table, as well as MY version of the pasta, a salad, and some drinks. This wasn’t good enough though, so Mr Italian then decided he would make his own chicken, with my chicken. I said yes while cringing my teeth and sat at the table waiting. Eventually he brought his chicken to the table, that looked repulsive. It was chicken breast, but for some peculiar reason it looked like he had snapped the wings of a live chicken, breaded them, and then thrown them on a dish! I was horrified.

When we were finally ready to eat, (and I was finally ready for this night to be over) he sat down and tentatively took a bite. I can’t even say that he looked like a deer in headlights, because..well..it was worse than that. He didn’t even pretend to enjoy my hard cooked ( and yes, I really did cook this time) dinner! He took about one spoon full, and then declared that next time “we should try his version.” I told him there wouldn’t be a next time if he didn’t be quiet and then continued to text my friends the unbelievable night I had, and what a splendid penne alla vodka I made.

Lessons learnt: a) I can be a good cook when I want to be. b) tune everyone else out when cooking c) my penne alla vodka sauce is amazing d) My cooking will never be as good as an Italian mother (in the eyes of an Italian son).