Dishing is our series of conversations with people who love food and drink as much as we do. This week’s brings you someone close to Kait’s heart (and stomach! haha). It might be the closest we get to a Valentine’s post.
Meet my boyfriend, Phil. Phil has been on a brussel sprouts kick for a few weeks and people are starting to notice. He extols their virtues with glossy pics every other Facebook post and they’ve even somehow weaseled their way into breakfast, the purest meal. It’s nothing new to me, we’ve been through pork loins, pizza crusts, pot pies, wonton soup, bacon, you name it; Phil has a way with them that is tried (and tried again) and true. But, to the untrained eye, it may seem this high-school music teacher has a slight obsession. What reason does that guy have to find twenty ways to make brussel sprouts? How does he have time for that? Why isn’t his foodie girlfriend doing the cooking with all her spare time?
Good questions. One answer: love.
He loves it. Every second in the kitchen is like seven minutes in heaven for Phil. He can be making something as labor-intensive as gluten-free rice noodles (a well-meaning, but failed project) or something as simple as eggs and bacon (my all-time fave), his level of concentration is always the same. I like to drink and cook, Phil likes to let his beer get warm by the light of the stove. He’s a machine, a very artful one.
Phil started cooking when he was eight. He has three younger brothers and parents in the medical field, so kiddos had to eat! Mostly simple things at the beginning: mac and cheese, sandwiches, simple Indian food he’d learned from his parents. But as he got older, moved away, worked as a cook for three fraternities, and dated a vegetarian his cooking started to develop a style all its own.
To call Phil’s food simple is doing it a grave injustice. He makes food simply, but extremely well done. I’ve yet to have an over-easy egg at a restaurant better than his and Indian food … forget it. I’ve seen him use a recipe maybe once, and he was deliberately trying to recreate something someone else had made for him. All the staples you could ever want, Phil can make- he’s the kind of cook who can stroll into the kitchen, have a look around at what seems to me next to nothing and then proceed to fashion that nothing into a delicious meal.
My absolute favorite thing is to watch him get an idea for something new and nail it. He cooks the same way I write songs: something will drop in on me, out of the ether, and after a few days or weeks of letting it roll around in my brain and gather all kinds of moss, I can sit down and iron it out into something meaningful. That’s Phil with food.
Being a teacher, and a very good one, he is not always home in time to cook something from scratch. Hence he’s become very good at prepping for meals and the ultimate prep tool is the crock pot. Usually it’s a soup or a roast, but last week is was sheer brilliance: a crock-pot tamale. We layered corn bread batter, black beans, sour cream, cotixa cheese, and spicy ground pork twice into the pot and let go on low for over a day. I said it last week and I’ll say it again: that casserole was the ugliest food I’ve ever loved. Phil’s a sucker for presentation, but he can also appreciate when it’s not needed. When all that’s really needed is a fork and a beer, that’s really as beautiful as it gets.