I didn’t plan to be a cook. Unlike many people with culinary backgrounds, cooking well was not something I always knew I would do. I wanted to throw parties – elaborate themed parties. I wanted to travel all over the world coordinating large important events that would leave people speechless. Food was an important element of event planning but I always believed that I would hire someone to do the cooking for me. I knew that food knowledge was important. I wanted to be able to help my clients plan their menus and be able to talk to chefs and caterers with knowledge and authority but I never cared if I could cook – until the night of the Tostada Quiche.
At 20, I found myself in a miniature upheaval. I had recently realized that the direction my life was going was not leading to a place I wanted to be. After two years as an Advertising major, I decided to change and, as you can imagine, thrilled my parents in the process. An extra year or two of college was exactly what they had been hoping for out of their only daughter. Their plans to buy an RV and travel the country could certainly wait. I scoured the university catalogue searching for the “Party Planning and World Travel” major. To my dismay there was no such thing. After much agonizing, I finally decided on Hotel and Restaurant Management. After all, this major required travel classes, business classes and cooking classes. I felt certain that I could easily catapult this degree into the career of my dreams.
My personal life wasn’t going so well either. Having just come out of a long and emotionally draining relationship, I was exhausted. Tired and fed up with dating, I looked for other ways to fill my time. I joined a Jazzercise class. Remember Jazzercize? Something between aerobics and dancing. I can still do the routine choreographed to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and yes, it’s as awkward as it sounds. I also picked up my first cookbook during this time. I was excited about my new major and nervous about joining the other culinary students so I set to work, learning about recipes and food, and occasionally trying out the simple soup or casserole. Most worked, some didn’t but I was learning and I wasn’t thinking about boys – much.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a boy. When you’re a 20 year-old girl, it seems that there is always a boy and I was certainly no exception. This boy, THE boy was someone I had known for nearly a decade, and someone that I had been in love with for nearly half that time. He was tall and beautiful and sweet and caring and “luckily” for me, my best friend. He was always around for me – always there and always supportive. I relied on him, trusted him and loved him dearly. But he was a friend and no matter how much I tried, there was a line that he would not cross. We’re friends; two words that both overjoyed and frustrated me immensely.
During this time in my life, the boy was everything I needed him to be. He went out of his way to keep me occupied, to make sure I didn’t spend my weekends alone. We’d spend time talking, laughing, going places and doing things. Enjoying each other completely but never crossing that line that managed to be both imaginary and tangible at exactly the same time. Then one night, I decided to cook dinner.
I had been in cooking classes for nearly two weeks and wanted to show off my newly acquired skills. I poured through my mother’s cookbooks until I found what I thought was the perfect recipe: Tostada Quiche. The recipe was simple, but a bit unusual. It was still Mexican – which meant it would probably be good for two Texas kids. I drove to the store and bought everything we needed for the meal. Tostada Quiche, Homemade Salsa, Guacamole and Tortilla Chips were on the menu. I then called the boy and asked him to come over and cook with me. I couldn’t have been more excited when he happily agreed.
For the next few hours, we chopped and stirred and whisked and laughed and talked and probably made a mess unlike anything my mom had seen before in her kitchen. We followed the recipe to a tee and created our own masterpiece of taco-seasoned eggy goodness. We ate and enjoyed and laughed some more. And then we cleaned, as all good cooks do, leaving the kitchen betterthan we had found it, and my mother gleefully surprised.
Later that night I sat next to this boy who meant so much to me. This boy, who had the ability to make me feel funny and special and loved. It wasn’t unlike many other nights we had spent together and yet, in the dark room, by the soft glow of the TV, and for just a moment, that line became a little less tangible and a little more blurred. The boy kissed me – a kiss I would never forget. I loved him then and knew I always would. As I later reflected on that night, I always wondered what made it so different? What made it special? Had working together to create something beautiful and delicious brought us closer together or was it just a coincidence? Was the saying about the way to a man’s heart true? These were questions to which I would never know the answers but I now knew that I loved to cook. I loved what happened when you cooked. I loved the creative process and I loved the result.
Time moved on and so did we. Not long after that night, the boy married and moved away. Several years later, I too married and began a family of my own. But I never stopped cooking. My first love had left me but my second love, the love of food that began on that amazing night would never abate, never falter and never fail me. To this day, I still occasionally make that Tostada Quiche and when I do, there is always a moment when I pause and realize with a smile that I will never forget that boy. I will never forget that night of laughter and happiness and I will certainly never forget that amazing kiss by the soft glow of the TV.
- 1 (9-inch) deep dish frozen pie shell
- 2 avocados, peeled, seeded and mashed
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 (4-oz.) can chopped green chilies
- 1/4 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
- 8 oz. lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 to 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Shredded lettuce
- Tortilla chips
- Chopped tomato
Preheat oven to 400F. Let frozen pastry shell stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Do not prick.
In a small bowl, combine avocados, lime juice and garlic. Stir in 1 chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon green chilies and hot pepper sauce. Cover and refrigerate.
Bake the pastry shell for 7 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 375F.
In a medium skillet, combine ground beef, onion, remaining green chilies and taco seasoning mix. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until beef is browned and onion is tender. Drain ground beef mixture.
Place cheddar cheese in the bottom of the pastry shell and top with ground beef mixture.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour over ground beef mixture.
Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with guacamole, tomato and shredded lettuce. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa. Makes approximately 6 servings.