A Year of (Learning) Cooking

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Last September, I set myself a series of goals. Though I had a few setbacks, the actual math of those goals didn’t really matter. What mattered was the progress I made along the way.

I changed my plan to leanness instead of bulking up and I’m now 15 pounds lighter, mostly thanks to making weight loss a project back in January. That was a victory for me! I also cut alcohol consumption by a LOT, and a future post will lay out my numbers. Stay tuned. I maintained four Unconbentional posts per month too, but fell short on my investing goals. Finally, I succeeded in keeping track of an entire year’s finances, down to the penny. It’s been a great year!

But wait! The most success I had with a goal was learning how to cook! Though I didn’t cook every week, I averaged one new meal a week over the past 52. Not every meal turned out the way I wanted, but check it out! We made all these, and learned lots along the way!

WEEK 1 – Miso chicken udon with Brussels sprouts
WEEK 2 – “Company” meatloaf and spinach salad
WEEK 3 – Cider-brined pork chops with perogies, peas and corn
WEEK 4 – Pan-seared cod puttanesca, buttered orzo and spinach
WEEK 5 – Dongpo-style braised pork belly, bok choy and rice
WEEK 6 – Roast rack of lamb persillade, garlic asparagus and buttered orzo
WEEK 7 – Ratatouille, lemon basil orzo and bok choy
WEEK 8 – Rotisserie-style roast chicken and quinoa tabbouleh
WEEK 9 – Cantonese lobster, Dongpo pork, bok choy and rice
WEEK 10 – Lobster linguine and arugula salad
WEEK 11 – Tuna tataki, spicy eggplant and “takeout” noodles
WEEK 12 – Scallop ceviche, tuna tataki, Atlantic razor clams
WEEK 13 – Sticky chicken, asparagus, and rice
WEEK 14 – Century egg congee
WEEK 15 – Rosemary steak and bacon lentil salad
WEEK 16 – Butter clams and crusty bread
WEEK 17 – Spinach omelette
WEEK 18 – Coriander-rubbed duck breast, bacon lentil salad, and smoked salmon crostini
WEEK 19 – Spinach and leek soup, mushroom risotto
WEEK 20 – Mixed mushrooms with chives, zucchini noodles with mint pesto, and roasted onions
WEEK 21 – Bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed chicken, and lemon garlic green beans
WEEK 22 – Lamb shank, quinoa, and garlic asparagus
WEEK 23 – Pork roast with celery and carrots
WEEK 24 – Charcuterie board, roasted bone marrow with parsley salad, and rare steak with chimichurri
WEEK 25 – Slow-cooked pork loin with a brandy au jus, and steamed broccoli
WEEK 26 – Slow-cooked pork tenderloin with a brandy au jus, simple Moroccan couscous, and mixed vegetables
WEEK 27 – Ostrich steak, apricot couscous, and garlic asparagus
WEEK 28 – Pulled pork on buns, mac and cheese
WEEK 29 – Sweet potato and mushroom cannelloni with endive and butter beans
WEEK 30 – Beef shakshouka, garlic yogurt and toasted bread
WEEK 31 – Dongpo pork, ginger shallot mussels, Chinese vegetables, and rice
WEEK 32 – Beef and broccoli, rice
WEEK 33 – Simple chicken drumsticks with peppers, rice
WEEK 34 – Pulled pork tacos
WEEK 35 – Baked caramelized chicken drumsticks, broccoli, rice
WEEK 36 – Spaghetti carbonara
WEEK 37 – Lobster thermidor
WEEK 38 – Chinese-style steamed whole fish
WEEK 39 – Baked Atlantic salmon with citrus and fennel bulb
WEEK 40 – Baked sockeye salmon with dill, parsley and shallot herb paste
WEEK 41 – Roasted chicken drumsticks in cranberry juice
WEEK 42 – Lemon chicken drumsticks with asparagus and roasted potatoes
WEEK 43 – Pakistani kima
WEEK 44 – Kangkung belacan and white rice
WEEK 45 – Fiesta scrambled eggs
WEEK 46 – Baked salmon with brown sugar glaze
WEEK 47 – Roast beef
WEEK 48 – “15-Minute” roasted chicken and veggies
WEEK 49 – Sausage and shrimp gumbo
WEEK 50 – Vegan mapo tofu
WEEK 51 – Garlic sesame gai lan
WEEK 52 – Garlic snow pea leaves and rice

A year ago, I was still screwing up rice. Now, I sometimes go to restaurants and end up thinking, “Wow, I could’ve done better.” I NEVER CONSIDERED THAT WOULD BE A POSSIBILITY SOMEDAY. I JUST ALWAYS ASSUMED RESTAURANT-LEVEL COOKING WAS SOMETHING I’D NEVER ACHIEVE.

I gained a deeper appreciation for food, and picked up a life skill that’ll benefit me for the rest of my life! I think I’ll try this again, but starting in January. I’m gonna take a few months off and pump the brakes. It’s my reward for a job well done.

How are your goals going?

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All My Failures Weren’t Failures At All

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It all started when I noticed the performers weren’t getting ID’d.

I was at a bar on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and I was 18, desperate to drink with my 19-year-old friends. We were all out on the town to support my friend M as he did standup comedy. He wasn’t very good yet, but showbiz kids stick together. I ordered an appy and settled in.

Every night featured about seven performers. Pretty much all of them were terrible. They were the entertainment for the night though, so the bar treated them with respect. There were occasional free drinks, and I guess they gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were all 19+. I wanted in on that. I waved the emcee over.

“Hey, can I sign up for next week?”

“Uh, have you done this before?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can do what they’re doing.”

“Do you have any material?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll come up with something.”

After ten minutes of needling, he reluctantly gave me a slot. I’d invite my friends too, I thought to myself. They’ve been laughing at my dumb jokes for years. I walked home that night performing for an imaginary crowd. Surely, I was hilarious. This wasn’t even about the drinking anymore. When I was 18, I was about 80% hubris.

*****

I’ll spare you my jokes.

I was 18 at the time, and thought I was WAY funnier than I was. At best, my comedy stylings could be described as “bad”, and at worst, “probably somewhat racist against Koreans”. I was just another terrible performer. I got my drinks though, and I even went up four more times that summer and recycled the same shitty material for new crowds. Only once did I get great laughs. All the other times, I bombed hard. I gave it up, of course, but something started that summer. I learned the confidence I needed to go up in front of strangers and actually speak! Not just that, but FAILING my comedy show so many times made me realize the worst I could do was just piss people off for 10 minutes, and they’d forget all about me afterward. I was putting myself out there, and it was up to them whether they liked me or not. If they did, they’d pay attention – great! – and if they didn’t, they’d just ignore me, and that was fine. The end result was the same: I GOT MY DRINKS!

Even better than that was suddenly losing my fear of public speaking. I’ve now been invited to photo clubs, high schools, and industry events like 20Summit to speak about entrepreneurship and photography. I accept whenever I can. Because my business sense is better than my comedy, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. My failure at comedy led to success as a public speaker!

This is only one example, but I’ve failed at stuff a LOT. I once tried screenwriting. That led to film school, and I don’t even work on film sets anymore. I once tried drumming for a band. Over a decade later, I still struggle with a proper paradiddle. I once tried community theatre. The group imploded after only two productions. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I learned a fuckton. Nowadays, I don’t see all those as failures anymore. Rather, they’re all TEMPORARY SUCCESSES that inform my CURRENT GOALS.

Screenwriting taught me how to take a written idea and translate it visually. Drumming for a band taught me how to work and collaborate creatively in a group dynamic. Community theatre taught me how to market my art locally, and how to drum up business for something that people don’t even need. IT WAS ALL USEFUL.

There’s something I want you to take from all this: Try – and fail – often. Seriously. Fail all the fucking time. Fail so spectacularly that insurance companies get involved. Fail, then fail again, then fail again. Try everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t give a shit if you fail. I can guarantee you you’ll learn SOMETHING from it, and it WILL inform your future success. You’re not even failing. You’re taking small, measurable steps toward your next success. The modern day master is a jack of all trades. Anything more complicated can be looked up on YouTube. Hell, I’m trying to be a personal finance blogger. Have you seen how much fucking debt I’m in?!?

What have you always been afraid of trying/failing? Tell us in the comments.