By Suzanne Lenzer
I have a secret: I steal food. From myself and from anyone else who happens to be over for a meal. It’s one of the lesser known and certainly more furtive perks of being the cook in the house. I surreptitiously snack as I cook; an olive here, the crispest bit of skin off a roast chicken there.
Perhaps it’s a commitment issue: I’m more comfortable nibbling on lots of small bites rather than committing to any one single plate. (When it comes to a meal, monogamy is not my thing.) I’m sure this is why I love tapas and mezze so much; grazing is more fun than a full meal.
But this tendency (pathology?) comes out full force when I’m alone in the kitchen. When I find those wonderful marinated artichoke hearts at the Italian delicatessen, you know, the ones with the irresistibly long stems, I can’t help but treat myself to a briny bite. And when I’m peeling off tissue paper-thin pieces of prosciutto, can I be blamed for palming a slice and savoring it before everyone else get theirs? First dibs are, after all, a cook’s perk.
Growing up I always felt badly that my Mom settled for what was left. She took the smallest serving if there wasn’t as much as expected, ate the slightly overcooked chicken or undercooked egg, accepted the corner brownie and the endured the heel of the baguette. [Editor’s note: Ms. Lenzer doesn’t realize that these are the best parts. Her loss.] Little did I realize that she too was probably stealing as she cooked––at least I hope she was.
It’s easier to put a smile on your face and serve yourself last if you’ve enjoyed that perfect purloined snack along the way. So yes, I have an issue, but it’s not one I’m interested in parting with. I may get caught with a mouth full of Stilton or a smear of ganache on my cheek if you wander in to my kitchen unannounced, but I’m willing to live with the stigma—this kind of poaching is simply too good to give up. (Photo by Metroknow @ almostfit.com)