The Great Thing About Home Cooking, And Why It’s Hard to Breast Pump at a Restaurant

I was pregnant with my second son when I first started thinking seriously about pursuing a long-deferred dream of doing something in the food world.   I was looking at various options, and seriously considering getting into the restaurant business, even though I fully (really, fully) understood how grueling and unromantic it was most of the time (I’ve been a busgirl, a waitress, a hostess, and once almost a bartender but I couldn’t reach the bottles on the top speedrack). ,

After Charlie was born, my husband gave me a gift, and he presented it to me in front of both of our families.  The gift was this: for three days I would work, for free, at one of the best restaurants in New York, City, and experience the reality of a high end restaurant kitchen.  The rest of the family was looking at Gary as though he has given me a backhoe to celebrate my giving birth to his child, but I was very touched.

Excited but nervous, I put my breast pump in a backpack and headed to work.  I did my three 8-hour evening shifts, punctuated with milk pumping sessions in the office of the somewhat discomfited but surprisingly accommodating Executive Chef.  And it was exhausting.  But it was wonderful.  I did not end up pursuing a restaurant career, but it certainly wasn’t the experience that dissuaded me.

Anyway, why am I bringing this up?  Because at one point I was dicing potatoes with the Chef de Cuisine, and I thought I was holding my own.  “Watch this,” he said, and he stacked up all of the cubes of his diced potato into a perfectly straight column of squares, each cube a perfectly symmetrical marvel of 90° angles.  “You try,” he said, and I obediently stacked up my pile of cubes.  I could say my column was crooked, but that would imply that I was able to stack up enough to justify calling the structure a column. .

So, when you go to a four-star restaurant, you are paying for that kind of perfection: flawless balance of flavor, innovation, pristine ingredients, dazzling presentation, and the fact that if you measured the sides of the cubed potatoes on you plate, they would all be equal.  Maybe the food isn’t super fussy, but at the higher end, there are higher expectations.  And that’s what I like most about home cooking.  The food should taste great, the company should be excellent, and the length of sides of the potato cubes should be beside the point.

Charlie just doesn't seem to care how perfectly I diced the fruit.

Charlie just doesn’t seem to care how perfectly I diced the fruit.

4 thoughts on “The Great Thing About Home Cooking, And Why It’s Hard to Breast Pump at a Restaurant”

  1. Barbara says:

    Hi Katie! So, I wanted to let you know that I’m LOVING the Mom 100 Cookbook. You inspired me!! I’m a working mom with two boys, ages 13 and 8. And I had basically given up on making dinner. It was just too soul-destroying to make this Herculean effort to shop and cook at the end of a long workday, find a time when everyone was home (somebody has soccer or karate literally every night) . . . and then the kids would frequently refuse to eat what I cooked. It just made me want to cry. So the kids were living on pasta and hot pockets and frozen pizzas, and the family never ate together unless we went out, and I felt SO guilty and miserable about it, for YEARS. And of course guilt quickly curdles into resentment, so there was plenty of that, too– mostly directed at my husband. Anyway . . . time passes and things change. I got tenure (I’m a professor), so I could calm down a little bit about work, and my kids got older and more open to new foods. (At least, the older one is.) And then I came across your book. (Cue choir of angels.) There is an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Well, your book appeared just when I needed it. I’m trying the family dinner thing again, and it’s WORKING this time! We’ve had family dinner every night for more than a week now, and the kids really seem to love it. But the recipes in your book are absolutely key. Today I’m going to attempt the thing that your book recommends: Plan a week’s worth of meals and do a big shopping trip. (Crazy that I can lead a million-dollar research project, but can’t seem to organize dinner for the week.) Anyway, thank you thank you thank you for your friendly, reassuring, well-written, incredibly useful book. It’s really making a difference in our lives.

    1. Barbara, this is one of the nicest notes I’ve ever gotten. I love that the book has been so helpful to you, and I really love that you took the time to let me know, and express your very real life so articulately and beautifully! Yes, the guilt – so unproductive, but so prevalent and so hard to shake. But you’re shaking it — no, you’re kicking it in the butt! Go, go, go! This letter inspired me right back, so thank you.

  2. Barbara says:

    Oh, and relevant to today’s post (about the irregular potato cubes), yes! Not only is irregular OK, it’s charming! It’s handmade! We had pizza last night, using dough balls from Trader Joe’s that the kids had to roll and stretch into crusts. It was FUN. They weren’t round– they were BETTER than round. They were unique! One of a kind! The great thing I’m discovering about home cooking is not just that you eat better food and save money, but that your kids might learn to appreciate homemade/hand-made things. I’m a pretty serious knitter, so that’s dear to my heart.

    1. Better than round! Much better! Awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *