I cook 7 nights a week almost every week, and very regularly at dinner, our conversation turns to food. Usually regarding the food we are eating for dinner. At some point, I will ask Adam, "What do you think?" "What worked for you?" "What did you like?" For the outsider, it might sound like I am fishing for compliments, but Adam knows what I am really looking for. I actually want to know what he thinks about it, and I value his opinion a lot. I want to know if someone besides me will like it. If it is worth making again.
When we first started doing this a few years ago, the constructive criticism hurt my feelings, even when I was the one who had asked for it. It took me a little while to get used to receiving real, honest feedback and to not take it personally.
I think a lot of people (me included) have a hard time saying what we really think, particularly when it is critical of someone else, and worry that if we are totally honest, even in a constructive way, we will offend (which we probably would), however, after many, many dinner sessions like this, I have come to rely on Adam's opinion. He often has good ideas, and will help me come up with great ways to improve a dish, or serve it in a more interesting way. He is never demeaning about what I make, or how I made it and is usually very complimentary about the food, and grateful that I made dinner.
As I cook more and more, I have come to realize that being complimentary all the time can be a hindrance. Sometimes it is worth stepping back to look at the dish and determine if it is good or if it is just 'not bad.' I put forth a lot of effort when I cook, and I don't want to make something that is just 'not bad.'
I want to make delicious food as often as possible and constructive criticism that will help me grow and make my food taste better is worth hearing, even if it is hard to get at first. This isn't to say that you need to start a food discussion at every meal you eat, or that you should be completely honest about liking or not like a meal, but I have come up with some of my best food pairings through these discussions.
Having discussions about food regularly has also made me more willing to try new things, knowing that Adam will have my back even if it doesn't turn out, and he will help me figure out how to make it better. We have established an environment of trust, where we know that anything that comes out of the other person's mouth is to be helpful and said in a loving and encouraging way. I think that is key. Criticism just to point blame or pick out faults isn't worth saying. But an open and honest discussion about food is one of the high points of our evening meal.
Now, I am curious to hear if you ever have discussions like this at the dinner table? Do you analyze your food? I would love to hear your opinions and ideas in the comments!
Toasted Chicken Sandwiches with Walnut Pesto and Pear
6-8 slices of toasted French bread
1 soft pear, thinly sliced
1 chicken breast, cooked and thinly sliced (see recipe below for cooking and seasoning)
1/4 cup walnut pesto (see recipe below)
Spread walnut pesto on one side of one slice of bread. Top it with chicken slices. On the other slice of bread, place a 5-6 slices of pear (more pear will keep the sandwich from being dry, and make it slightly sweet). Enjoy!
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
1 chicken breast or 2 boneless skinless thighs, thinly sliced, with the fat cut away and discarded
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
Place the chicken on a foil lined baking sheet, so that the pieces are spread out and not touching each other. Turn your oven broiler on low. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, sugar and garlic. Once combined, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the chicken. Place the chicken on the middle rack of the oven for 7-9 minutes, then flip the chicken and cook for another 3-4, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
makes about 1 cup
adapted slightly from a recipe by Chef Drew Curren of Italic
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup walnuts, chopped quite finely
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
In a frying pan, heat the olive oil on a medium setting. Add the chopped walnuts and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until they just begin to toast. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the top and stir frequently until the vinegar begins to reduce and forms a sort of glaze over the walnuts. Add some salt and pepper and stir. Remove from the heat and add the shredded cheese. Store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.