I am two types of nerd: a food nerd, and an Internet nerd.
These two types frequently join forces as I spend a lot of my time on the Internet reading about food. I am convinced that’s what made me the foodie I am today.
I am not a chef. I have never taken a cooking class.
Salads. I can do this. Most of the time.
Sometimes, I’d barely call myself a cook. For all the praise my friends give me about my food, I make so many failures that I never share with anyone (other than my husband, because he’s stuck with it). Just today I tried making mini apple pies for an upcoming cocktail party, and I exclaimed out loud not once, but twice, “There is NO way I am serving these at the party.”
Everything I’ve learn about food has come from cookbooks, food magazines, my parents, and, oh yes, the Internet.
And in my reading about food on the Internet, I’ve learned there are a lot of people, old and young, rich and poor, educated and noneducated, that don’t know how to cook. Not just that, they’re scared of cooking.
Baked tilapia, roasted broccoli, whole-wheat cous cous, and roasted tomatoes — a pretty typical dinner for us.
And that makes me sad. Not because it indicates any sort of lacking on their part, but when I look back on my life, I think about how much of it is wrapped up in food memories.
I think back to when I was little and my mom and dad made cut-out sugar cookies with my sister and me, a tradition that I waxed nostalgic over today when I made my own sugar cookies.
I think about my mom asking me every year what I wanted for my birthday today. It was usually spaghetti, but I remember a turkey and wild rice salad that I just adored for a couple of years.
I remember making chocolate chip cookies.
I remember clumsily cooking for my college boyfriend at Penn State. Fettucine Alfredo, beer-cheese soup, and hamburgers … and a lot of late-night Steak-ums.
I think about making the first meal for my now-husband, barbecue-rubbed split chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and Ceaser salad. And even though he hates chicken on the bone, something I know now, he told me he loved it.
In not-so-great food memories, I remember the first time he wouldn’t eat something I made, a Gazpacho pasta salad. Silly boy.
The table set for dinner … a rarity in our household.
The point is that food is such an integral part of my life, and spending time in the kitchen creates such joy that I want everyone to know that joy (as long as they want to, of course).
I can only guess that these people are so scared of cooking because they’re afraid they’ll mess it up; that they’ll ruin an expensive ingredient, burn the meat, or sicken someone with food poisoning. While I’ve never sent anyone to the ER, I’ve definitely ruined meals, burned things, and been utterly disappointed by a recipe I had so much hope for.
This is pumpkin beer bread. And it’s burnt.
But when a recipe turns out right and my guests, my husband, or even me alone praise myself for it…well, there’s nothing to say other than it’s worth those ruined pricey ingredients or burnt rice.
There’s a line in the movie “Julie and Julia” that really speaks to me. “I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”
It’s true that cooking is both a science and an art. A comfort that the chemical reactions that happen will happen, yet the creativity to add a pinch of this and a pinch of that and, you never know…it could turn out to be the next masterpiece.
Pot roast. So comforting, so fragrant, so easy.
This blog posting was supposed to be a list of ways to conquer your fear of cooking, but I’ve spent too much time with a glass of pinot noir in my hand at my desk at home, listening to the sounds to Adele, and waxing poetic about my adoration of food. Typical me.
It’s something I thought about while I braised Swiss chard for the first time tonight and thought, “If I can do this, anyone can.” So come back soon, and I’ll have that list for you.
My first turkey, roasted just days ago. 21 pounds, and I was terrified … but I did it. And no one got sick (and that’s the important part.)