but I can still cook. Well, kinda. Let’s just say that I’m still in training, how’s that?
I didn’t learn to cook as a child. Frankly, no one had the time to teach me and I was doing just fine grabbing whatever I could. At age 8, that usually meant frozen pizza, leftover pasta, or I would just make myself a bologna sandwich. On those rare times when I actually had money, I would buy myself a cheesesteak, a slice of pizza or a mound of cheese fries from the corner store. Hey, I was eight!
Why was an eight year old fending for herself, you ask? Well, sadly, whatever did not involve my mother was generally ignored, including me. My mom was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) when I was five years old and she needed constant 24 hour care up until her death shortly before my 16th birthday. I’m not going to go into any details in this post because it’s long, involved and frankly, I’m not up to writing about it just yet.
So as a child, food for me was a means to an end and not something to savor and enjoy. I think the only decent meals that I got as a child were during the holidays when we would take a trip to my uncle’s house. There were tables, yes tables, overflowing with all kinds of Italian food and I would eat and eat and until I would get sick to my stomach.
At home, my father and my sister would certainly cook, but again, it was food catered to my mother’s strict diet of very bland food. Spices of any sort would increase saliva production and she couldn’t swallow her own saliva. I would sometimes eat whatever food was prepared, but it wasn’t very long before I would go back to fending for myself.
Between the ages of 16-22, I had brief period where I experienced “normal” mealtimes while I lived with my sister and later my mother-in-law, but I never cared very much to learn to cook. Honestly, I don’t even think that wasn’t because I didn’t care… it wasn’t a priority.
So as I got older and my life got busier, I ate out… A LOT… If I did cook at home, it was either out of a box, or I would collect recipes and follow them religiously. My apartment in San Francisco, where I lived after my divorce, had at least 30 restaurants within a four block radius. I could have almost any type of food I wanted. I was really, really spoiled. Plus, I lived alone… cooking for one sucks and the food always went bad before I could get to it. Take out was the best option.
Now that I have dietary issues, I have to cook for myself more. The thought of changing a 30 year old habit was very daunting, so I decided to take a basics cooking class along with a knife skills class. I had a lot of fun and over the past few months, I’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen.
You know? This cooking thing wasn’t so bad…. Until a couple of weeks ago.
Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Here are some observations/lessons learned.
- According to the recipe, I had to sauté onions until they stuck to the bottom of the pan. So they are cooking and cooking, but they are not sticking… I probably overcooked the hell out of them by the time I realized that I was cooking with a non-stick pan.
- I accidentally bought crushed ginger instead of crushed garlic, good thing I realized my mistake before I added it to my pan.
- Instead, I decided to garlic powder. I probably should have looked up the conversion from fresh garlic to garlic powder, but I didn’t… and I added way too much.
- The recipe called for white wine. I don’t drink white wine (I’m a red girl), but I did have a cheap bottle on hand for emergencies. When the writer of the recipe tells you to add the wine in slowly to the heated olive oil because it will splash, listen… I added in about a cup of wine all at once and it shot out of the pan like a volcano, drenching the top of the oven and ending up all over the floor and counters. Well at least my new cookbook looks used now.
- Food definitely needs more time to cook on an electric stove versus gas. What should have taken an hour to cook, took an hour and a half.
- By the time the food was finished, I couldn’t tell if my kitchen was smoky because of my contacts or because of my cooking.
- Buy a splatter screen.
The result – it was god-awful and the worst cooking experience I have ever had. I ended up having rice cakes and hummus for dinner that night. Since then, my faith in my cooking skills has been restored since I have cooked some very successful meals. I just don’t think I’m ready to invite anyone over for dinner just yet.