Some of us aren’t destined to be kitchen whizzes

It’s been nearly a year and a half since I started this retirement thing. I can’t say there isn’t anything about getting up and going to the office every day that I miss. It was — and still is — a great bunch of people who spend their days (and for many of them, nights) on South Seventh Street. I’ll always miss them.

But in November 2009 I turned a page and, as the saying goes, started a new chapter. It was to be a chapter filled with new experiences.

There was to be more travel. And there has been.

I was going to read all the books I said I’d read and never did. I’m working on it, and in fact have made great progress. But the list is long and I doubt I’ll ever finish it.

There were to be new skills to learn. One of them was to be cooking. Eighteen months ago, this was the deal: My wife, the chief (and very good) cook around our house was still working. I was to learn a few kitchen skills in retirement to even out the workload.

Let’s just say there was little progress. The panini maker and I became acquainted, as did the telephone and I (to order take-out). But the rest of the alchemy that somehow turns raw vegetables, hunks of meat and the bewildering assortment of jars and bottles in the spice cabinet into the savory dishes Kathy routinely whips up proved to be as elusive as an honest politician. I failed. Vegetables in my hands turned to mush, meat became overcooked on the outside and raw on the inside. Sauces? Let’s not go there.

Dreams of joining some of my male friends as an artist in the kitchen were not to be. I’ve always been envious of those guys. And I guess I always will be, since I’m not destined to join them. The least I can do in return for all of the good food I’ve eaten that they created is acknowledge their culinary skills.

So here, in no particular order, are five good friends who are darned good cooks.

At the top of the list is local lawyer John Gormley. I lost count long ago of the good meals he’s created and I’ve been fortunate enough to consume. I’d like to tell you his specialty, but I don’t think he has one. He simply can cook anything. When he isn’t cooking he’s tending his garden, which is the size of a small country.

Salmon has always been high on my list of favorite foods. Years ago Mark Madsen cooked a salmon dish that was the best I’d ever had. I’m not sure what’s in it. It’s just good. My wife got the recipe and we have it often. It’s simply known around our house as “Mark Madsen salmon.”

The first person I met when I moved to Colorado back in 1974 was, at the time, sports editor of the Glenwood Post. Dennis Pretti and I have been friends since. He is an Italian at heart and has an Italian appreciation of all things culinary. But polenta is his specialty. I don’t even like cornmeal. But I’ll make an exception anytime Dennis wants to make polenta.

The name Burford in these parts has long been associated with cattle ranching. So when Kelley Burford dons an apron, it usually has something to do with beef. If he invites you over, don’t turn him down.

And finally, a shout-out to Frank Pfeiffer. He’s one of those people who is good at whatever he tries, whether it’s repairing boats and cars, building horseshoe pits or throwing together a pot of something for a bunch of guys coming over to play cards. It’s the latter that makes him a part of this missive. Once a year he makes a gumbo out of whatever fauna that has had the misfortune of being in his gun sights during the year. It’s been pheasant, venison, elk,  crane (not of the endangered species type) that have been tossed into his stewpot at one time or another. Whatever ends up in the pot is always delicious.

My hat’s off to the five of you. I wish I could repay the favor, but trust me, I tried and I can’t.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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