"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
This afternoon my office-mate and I were chatting about cooking – that’s a surprise coming from me, right?! For the past week it’s fallen to BF and me to make dinners for his family, mostly because we are the ones who: a. can cook and b. enjoy it. I was lamenting to my friend that there are no fresh cooking spices at their house and I’m desperate to bring mine from home.
Then I regaled her with a tale of my youth, laying bare my utter nerdiness, foodiness, and analytical leanings:
My mom has always kept a decent spice rack in the kitchen for as long as I could remember. One of my kitchen pastimes as an 8-year-old was to perch myself on the counter, open each bottle of spice one-by-one, sniff them, read the label to learn what was suggested to cook them with, sniff again while envisioning these tasty dishes, and return each bottle to its rightful place (probably in alphabetical order, because I’m cool like that). My office-mate laughed and said that this was probably my earliest evidence of being a true foodie. I think she’s right!
At that age, I wasn’t spending a lot of time over the stove top, probably because I could barely see over it. My principle time in the kitchen was the occasional dishwashing chore and every Saturday morning when I helped my mom make blueberry or banana pancakes from scratch. My job was to mix the batter and not eat it because it wasn’t that great. I would even help out with homemade cookies and the occasional brownie mix.
But cooking meals was downright overwhelming. My aunt and I attempted to make Thanksgiving dinner when I was 16 years old, because my mom had to work on the holiday. This was probably my earliest introduction to preparing a grandiose meal. The biscuits looked and felt like hockey pucks. The turkey came out dry. The mashed potatoes were too lumpy. And the green beans were too mushy. The trauma of that meal still lingers and I start to hyperventilate whenever it is implied that I should cook a turkey. I stick to making hams for the holidays…
I didn’t really start cooking until I was 23 years old. BF is a hearty eater, especially after he goes mountain biking for 3 hours and burns 3000 calories. We would go out for dinner dates and the guy would have to order two entrees just for himself, plus an appetizer to share. It was getting costly and we needed an alternative. So I gathered my scraps of courage about me and entered the kitchen. Some of our early meals were purely experimental: attempts at making our own white sauce for pasta, learning not to overcook vegetables, turning down the element so that rice doesn’t burn. We bump into each other constantly in my tiny kitchen. Thankfully BF is already a natural when it comes to cooking.
Jut a year and half later I’m hooked. Cooking has become an outlet for my creativity, a restorative experience, an opportunity for exploration. I get to dabble in art for the palette: there are fusion dishes, the same recipe yields different results each time, and the possibilities are endless. I have the added challenge of being lactose-intolerant and gluten-resistant, but it’s been an exciting adventure acquiring the culinary skills for my dietary needs. We have also started eating a cleaner and more organic diet, free from processed foods, and that means more fresh ingredients to experience.
Talking to friends lately, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who was intimidated by the kitchen. The encouragement here is to attempt, to experiment, and to learn by trial and error.
I’ve decided to start up Tasty Tuesday’s to highlight some of my favorite recipes. I posted this one on Sunday but it seems like a perfect dish to make for Superbowl Sunday so here it is with the highest recommendations from my in-house-critic, BF.