Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne
I am not a trained chef, but I do know about cooking. I’ve done it since I was a child, first because I had to, and then because I found I loved it. Cooking is a creative outlet for me, and a tangible way of expressing love and care.
I’ve always loved trying new recipes. At first, as a novice cook, I used them for instruction. As a new bride, I used them for inspiration and a way to show my always hungry hubby how much I loved him—and to impress him, of course. I gathered quite a collection of cookbooks, which I hauled along on our many moves.
Early on, I followed recipes almost to the letter but that phase didn’t last long—not my style. I found, by trial and error, (and with some spectacular successes and equally spectacular failures) that some dishes could be improvised and tinkered with endlessly. Others, like baked goods, could have substitutions made, but basic formulas and proportions were more vitally important for triumphal cooking feats. Still, even with baking, I began to learn when and where I could change things up, getting to know the “feel” of a good bread dough, the way a biscuit dough should look. In cooking, nothing beats on the job training.
Now, as I find myself with heretofore unavailable blocks of time for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, I still love finding new recipes to try. In fact, it’s become somewhat of an obsession—I aim for at least one new recipe a day, Several if I have time. More on that later. I don’t use cookbooks as much in this digital age since I can troll the web for any dish I might want to try—a few keywords in Google and I’m off on a delightful adventure. I’ve discovered favorite food blogs and websites, made friends with the chefs on Food TV Network, and I even get recipes via my phone.
Some things I’ve learned along the way:
♥ Use the best and freshest ingredients and the best tools you can afford at the time. Even if they are not your ideal (all organic, local, grade A, homegrown, brand name, designer label, whatever), the love that goes into cooking makes up for a lot.
♥ Label things. Nothing is worse than thinking it’s sugar and finding out too late that it’s kosher salt.
♥ Check what’s on hand before beginning. Sometimes substitutions can be made but not always. Be willing to be flexible and creative, if the recipe allows. If not, try another dish for now. Knowing the difference is important.
♥ Clean up as you go. This is important, especially if working in a small space. Otherwise messes pile up, stuff hardens and sticks, and it’s not pretty. Actually, a large space is as bad or worse—more surfaces to stack on. Yuk!
♥ Have fun! No martyr complexes in the kitchen. Cooking should be a love affair—stimulating, exciting, passionate, creative, energetic. No matter if the menu is soup and sandwiches–otherwise do fast food.
♥ And, as trite as it sounds, cooking is a lot like life…
For instance, no matter what I do, it turns out best if I have what I need at my disposal, bring my best to the situation, and check to make sure I’m prepared. Sometimes that means making the best of what I have available to me at the time. It’s most efficient if I have my files labeled and I know ahead of time that everything is in place. I don’t want to reach for something I need to find it’s not there, or worse, that it’s not what it says it is. I get my best results if I follow through and finish up what I start, cleaning up all the details as I go along. If I don’t, stuff piles up or falls through the cracks and things aren’t pretty. I need to bring a positive attitude with me. Now life happens, and it’s not always pleasant, but I can control my reaction to even the bad things. Perspective and balance and the willingness to be flexible can ease almost any situation.
You’ll be hearing more from me on the subjects of food and cooking—and life. If I come up with something I particularly like in all of my experimentation, I may even share a recipe or two. As I said, I’m trying something new every day. It’s fun and creative and quite often therapeutic. See you in the kitchen!