Monday, March 24, 2008

Combining Memes

No, not those lame-ass "I tagged you" questionnaires. Memes. Pronounced "meems". Ideas, themes, units of cultural information. Get it? Good.

The occasionally rant, political post, or random linkage aside, there are two topics that I cover here -- Poker and Food. Just take a look at the tags on the side bar to see how true this is. I figured I may as well combine the two today. Especially in light of Hoy's recent revelation that Wii Home Run derbies are the secret to 50-50 success.

I'll be the first to admit that my success in poker is incredibly limited. I can make no claims to being a winning player. I also can't claim that I care all that much. The few successes I've had though tend to have something in common - I cook beforehand. And I'm not talking about nuking some Chef Boyardee, or tossing some frozen fries in the toaster oven and heating up some soup. I mean I cook. Roasted chicken, mile-high elk burgers with homemade sweet potato fries, dry-rubbed rib eye, prosciutto-wrapped tilapia with roasted red peppers, chili, elk chorizo and grilled chicken borolo pasta, etc, etc.. Soup/salad, a main, 2 sides, dessert - a full meal.

So why does this seem to work? I'm big on sussing out correlation from causation, so I'm not about to say that my food is magical. No, I imagine it's because of the environment. If I can cook a full meal, it means that I'm home at a good time, not wiped from a day at work, and generally looking to relax. There is little I find more therapeutic than putting together a meal, especially without a recipe.

It's also a mindset. If I'm cooking dinner, then I've given some thought to what I want to make. I walk in my door with a plan. If I need ingredients, chances are I've picked up market-fresh, high-quality stuff at St. Lawrence, or one of the high-end grocery stores on my way home (I'd love a no-frills store, but they're all a drive away, and convenience beats cost on a weekday). I'm focused on the task at hand. I know what I need to put together. If the kitchen needs to be tidied up, it is. I set up my mise en place (it's French, so pronounce it that way), and do things in order, and in time. Dirty pots and dishes are put in the sink and cleaned when the process allows, keeping things orderly. It sets up a rhythm and thought-process that I think is key for a game like poker.

Then there's the emotional aspect. As the kitchen fills with the smells of herbs, spices, meat, vegetables, oils, sauces, and whatever else is being used, the mind relaxes and all those chemicals that make us happy start getting released. A great meal is about to be enjoyed and I know it. Since the task at hand is the cooking, achievement is met with instantaneous reward in the form of the meal. Anticipation met with positive reinforcement and one could pretty much set up a Pavlovian response if a bell is handy.

Naturally, with the effort put into a meal, the proper drink is required. Whether it's a high quality beer, a nice wine, a mixed drink, or even a non-alcoholic concoction, it fits the mood and rounds out the experience. It completes the sense of indulgence and decadence... of being spoiled.

On top of all that, when all is said and done, I'm full. Sated. One of the worst distractions when playing poker is hunger. I get up and search for a snack, missing hands. I grab a handful of seasoned almonds, or Doritos, or what have you, and my turn comes up, with my hands covered in crap, and me unwilling to touch my mouse. Being full (but not stuffed) eliminates this. I'm also relaxed, as I obviously have nothing else of pressing importance, since I just spent an hour or so cooking on a weeknight. As well, there's none of that food hangover you get from the processed foods pulled from the freezer or cupboard.

So, de-stressed, awake, alert and attentive, happy, full, feeling like a champ for making such an awesome meal, thinking clearly and orderly, I sit down at a poker table and am ready to go. Everything flows more easily, and so little is forced.

Also, my food is full of luckboxy goodness.


Congats once AGAIN to LJ for her biggest online cash ever. $5.6k ain't too shabby. Make me wonder what I'm doing wrong...

Don't forget the MATH tonight as the BBT3: Looks Who's a Luckbox Now continues on. I'm pretty disappointed with 36th place at the moment, and my game was pretty severely off last week. After this post, methinks I'll have to come up with a good dinner tonight to set me up right for the game. Maybe I'll play some Wii home run derby while I'm at it... it can't hurt, right?


Otis said...

I was already preparing a mise en place in the kitchen to mise en place at the table comment when I got halfway through and realized, "Well, he seems to get it without my help."

Regardless, it's good to know there is someone else out there who suffers/enjoys the same phenomenon.

lj said...

thx for shout out. wish i could help you eat dinner before math, i'm sure it will be way better than what i order in.

BWoP said...

Chef Boyardee?

My guess is that you graduated from cooking that when you were 3.

Alyce said...

As I've stated before:

Boyardee ravioli should be eaten straight out of the can!