Wait. Before you think I’m dramatically changing the focus on this blog and have a sexual interest in poultry, let me explain…
Tonight I’m giving thanks for having some culinary skills. I think my life would be infinitely less rich if I didn’t know how to cook. I may not have won Top Chef (yet!), but I do know my way around a kitchen. I routinely surprise myself with the meals I can construct on the fly with random ingredients in my fridge.
The meal that prompted my most recent pat on the back was this: A chicken roasted from scratch (thank you, 40×40!) served with the most amazing roasted asparagus… then plucked and used to construct… white bean and sausage cassoulet… and garlic penne with chicken and asparagus. A week of meals, all created in less than an hour (if you ignore the hands-off cooking time).
Friends who are intimidated by the kitchen often ask how I learned. Here’s my answer: I had a good role model. My mom didn’t teach me to cook – or instruct me on specific recipes – but she has modeled a few things for me:
- Be curious. She often flips through cookbooks or magazines and earmarks pages for things she wants to try. She doesn’t always make them, but they add to her knowledge base.
- Don’t be intimidated. Cooking isn’t exactly a mystery when you’re driving off a recipe. Someone else is giving you explicit instructions – so as long as you can read and follow directions, you can basically cook anything. This might explain why – after being impressed by Chicken Divan at a “Brunch with Bach” (the gold standard for our community’s quarterly cultural events) – my Mom found a recipe and tried her hand at it. It rocked.
- Improvise. I don’t think I can open any of my mom’s cookbooks without finding recipes that include her handwritten notes of modifications she’s made – either based on what she had on hand, or the family’s preferences. I think her experimental notes would earn an approving nod from scientists.
- Take risks. I can’t remember the specific risks my mom took, but I DO remember the occasional meal hurled straight into our compost bucket – which tells me she was pushing her limit. It also makes me realize I’m doing something right when I spend four hours trying to create crunchy spiced nuts and then end up having to write-off an $8 bag of walnuts because it’s all stuck to my wooden spoon.
- Pay attention. You’ll start to realize what works well together – and develop your own library of what to combine when you need to add a pinch of something to get the flavor just right. This makes you confident and nimble – and able to create your own recipes.
- Love food. If you enjoy eating, cooking isn’t a chore – it’s an adventure.
So that’s my gratitude for the day – knowing how to cook, and having had a great role model to inspire me. Thanks, Mom!
Now if you’re interested in the most amazing asparagus ever, comment and I’ll share it. Warning: It involves
a wee bit copious amounts of bacon butter.