Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Humble Beginnings in the Kitchen

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This is me (with a blonde uni-brow) rolling dough for Christmas cookies a LONG time ago. I'm trying to trick you into thinking that I've been masterful in the kitchen since a young age. Anyone who has eaten my cooking would probably stifle a laugh at that suggestion. But I'm excited about the fact that I'm finally learning to cook! Somedays things turn out well and other days it's me and Brian thinking to ourselves "who's going to confess first that they can't eat the rest of this meal?" I want to take you on my journey in hopes that maybe I can inspire someone with cooking-phobia that truly, if I can cook, so can you.

Growing up my twin brother and I would spend our saturdays with Easy-Mac or (literally) slapping globs of peanut butter onto bread and pouring sugar over the top. For breakfast. We called it "peanut-butter sugar bread." Very healthy and creative. I never took an interest when my mom or dad were cooking and so when I graduated from high school I knew how to make cheese quesadillas, scrambled eggs, and hot cocoa. I'm not kidding. After that I lived in dorms or at my parents house until I got married, so food was made for me. When Brian and I got married we moved to Hawaii and worked at a missionary training school where, again, there was a cafeteria. So except for the occasional weekend experiment, I never really had to learn to cook. (The low point was probably our first Christmas meal together. We had just gotten back from a trip to the other side of the Big Island in Hawaii, and we were exhausted. So our Christmas dinner consisted of instant noodles with cooked lunch meat ham. I cried.)

To be honest, I was pretty nervous to learning to cook. I literally didn't know how to chop most vegetables and didn't know what many ingredients or cooking techniques were (shallots? simmering? sauteing?). I didn't want to disappoint myself or the people I was cooking for. It's an immobilizing cycle, really, to not do something because you don't know how to do it. It was intimidating to become a wife and realize that my poor husband and I were only going to eat pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Finally when we moved to Montana after a year of marriage, we had a home where I could begin to experiment. Brian is truly the husband of the century. As I began to try to cook, he sat through many dinners where chicken was dry from being overcooked, vegetables where limp, and mashed potatoes were crunchy. Bless his heart. It was when I started watching a friend of mine prepare dinners for her family and bake delicious treats when we would visit that I began to see that maybe cooking wasn't quite as terrifying as I had made it out to be. I don't have the genius-in-the kitchen gene that my sister and brother inherited, but I can follow a simple recipe. So for about the last year or so, I've embarked on a journey of cooking trial and error. Not everything is great, but once or twice a week I surprise myself with a dish that I would definitely make again! After trying different techniques (YouTube, anyone?) and reading a LOT of food blogs, I'm learning to slightly deviate from a recipe. Only every once in awhile, and only on things that I can hide behind like an extra pinch of this or substituting a bit of that. I don't think I'll ever be someone who can write their own recipes or put out a cook book. But I do know that there's not too many feelings that trump the moment when a meal turns out to be wonderful after an hour of chopping, stirring, and measuring. In the future I will share with you some of the things that have made me more successful as a beginner cook.

This is why I say literally - if I can cook something, so can you. And now I'm hungry.

4 comments:

  1. My poor husband had to choke down a vegetarian dish I made for him one Thanksgiving. This would have been an occasion to deviate from a recipe that called for a ridiculous amount of curry! Everybody has to start somewhere. I find great comfort in watching Julie and Julia. Even my dad, a man known for being a whiz in the kitchen has made some terrible meals when we were growing up. Even some recipes are just terrible to begin with and you don't realize it until halfway through making it! What a great thing that you are making an effort to learn because cooking is a lost art these days.

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  2. Great post! I totally relate. I've always loved baking, but cooking is totally different... And I don't like meat, so I never bothered to learn how to cook it. My poor husband endures dry chicken on a regular basis, I'm sad to say. But, like you, I'm trying! There is definitely hope for us. And one thing I've discovered that is AMAZING is my little friend, Crock Pot. Maybe you've met? Good luck!

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  3. Ariel, I'm glad to hear that there's someone else out there like me :) Isn't the crock-pot the best? My mom gave me one for Christmas, hands down the best invention ever. Good luck to you too!

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  4. That's pretty funny Lacey. I guess both our dads are good cooks, maybe it runs in our genes. I sure hope so. I love reading your blog!

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