The girls and I were watching the rerun of Junior Masterchef Australia and one of the earliest episodes was on. The 50 qualifiers were being trimmed down to 12 and a batch was asked to cook a dish that they felt they cooked the best — “the dish that you cook better than anyone else in the world” or words to that effect.
I paused for a moment wondering — was there a singular dish that I could rightfully claim that I cooked better than anyone else in the world? In fact, was there a dish that I cooked better — consistently better — than all the other dishes I have ever cooked over the past so many decades?
I figured that the honest answer to the first question is no — as what is “better” or “best” will always be relative and subjective, depending on the person eating the dish, and that person’s taste and preference will be determined by every little thing that he has been exposed to his entire life — what he was fed as a child, his food allergies, his level of adventurism, etcetera. In other words, a person whose acquaintance with spaghetti is the kind sold at Jollibee or McDonald’s will probably find it difficult to appreciate spaghetti a la vongole the first time.
The second question, however, could be answered with less relativity and subjectivity. After all, I have been cooking for and feeding the same three people for the past almost-two decades and, surely, there must be dishes that have become their favorites because I do them right each and every time.
So, I asked the girls: “Among all the dishes I have ever cooked, which do you consider the best?”
Note that neither answered immediately. It took a minute or two as, I supposed, they mentally reviewed, at turbo speed, all the meals they have eaten at home from their earliest memories as toddlers to today’s lunch.
For Sam, it’s the baked creamy chicken with potatoes and lengua — which between the one with mushrooms and and the one with corn, she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say. For Alex, it’s the baked salmon with buttered vegetables.
Later, I asked Speedy the same thing I asked the girls and he said there are far too many dishes that he likes. He couldn’t make up his mind, asked me which dishes he had requested me to make repeatedly, but Alex answered before I could even think: “Streusel!” She was, I knew, referring to the strawberry streusel cake and the cupcake variation.