Everyone who has ever worked with food has been asked a question they hate having to answer. "What's your favorite thing to cook?" Or, "What's your specialty?" There usually is not an answer to that. If you work in a kitchen, your specialty is managing budgets, payroll, filling the spot of whoever did not show up for work, and dealing with a constantly changing environment that is chaotic at best, in an extremely hot room, and your deliveries did not come through. If you work in catering, the answer is figuring out how to pull off a menu in less than fifteen minutes without all the stuff you forgot to bring, while walking five miles around a venue making sure everything is in place. If you are competing, the response is recreating the perfect environment in extreme weather, on uneven ground where everything shakes if you look at it enough, while trying to find something you just had in your hand.
I have been fortunate enough to work in all of those scenarios on many occasions. It's rare that everything goes as planned. That said, we all have favorite dishes that range in technical complexity, giving us a chance to show off some skills. We all have the favorite that looks really good on a plate. And we all have that really quick and simple go-to, that may only be for us. As much as I dislike that question, I recently found out I have an answer to it.
My favorite meal to prepare requires exactly none of my culinary training or experience, minus washing the dishes. The menu is as follows: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut into a circle and then split in half. A disc of Baybel Cheese, some grapes, a handful of pretzels, and two small pickles, quartered, complement the sandwich. This entire culinary delicacy is packed in a bento box and presented to my two year old daughter for inspection before we leave the house.
"Is that my luch?"
"Yes, it is."
"Let me see it."
I open the box for her, and she stares at it intently for several seconds.
"Thank you Daddy! Let's go to school."
Then she hugs me, and pushes the box back into my hands so I can carry it, along with everything I need for the day, and her, to the car at one time. I can't count how many meals I have either prepared or served, or both, in my lifetime, but this one stands out more than the rest.