I was not born with my love for cooking. Mom tried to teach me a few things growing up — I wasn’t interested.
In 9th grade, I was required to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal as a grade in my Home Economics class. I don’t really remember what I made, but I think it was some sort of sauce. Again, I wasn’t excited about it.
In college, my food-making repertoire included cereal, sandwiches and salads. I actually was quite good at making exotic salads — but I was a health-focused single gal and more of a snacker (dinner of nuts and fruit followed by some chocolate chips, anyone?) Not really what I consider cooking.
But then, I got married. And even more profoundly, I had a baby.
And in those blissful first days with my first-born (when no other little ones were yanking on my pants or pushing their sisters), I was free to sit on my bum all maternity-leave long watching The Food Network and holding a baby. And, for the first time, I fell in love with the art of cooking.
I loved discovering that vegetables come alive when you toss them in olive oil, kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper and roast them in the oven. I loved learning that a “water bath” is the best way to melt chocolate — and that egg whites are magical. I loved using lemon zest to make things pop and dry yeast to make things rise. And did you know that cooking in oil is better for temperature — but butter is best for flavor — so a little of both is the perfect match?
But mostly, I loved learning that great cooking doesn’t have to be hard. And once you get the hang of some basics, it becomes very much your own.
And now, I’ve learned the language.
I love to sit in bed at night with my Nana’s old Southern Living cookbooks and read recipes. My husband walked in the other night and said, “You’re reading cookbooks for fun now?”
I love paper cookbooks for the same reason I love cooking from fresh ingredients: because of the experience.
I mark them with Post-Its and scribble substitution notes in the margins. The pages get splattered with boiling water and the edges worn by messy fingers. But they are real and tactile and delicious — and unlike the endless array of recipes you can find online, they contain within them limited choices, hand-picked and quality-tested by foodie editors.
And in a world where it’s so easy to pin recipes on Pinterest and pop biscuits out of a Pillsbury can, I love the extra effort that goes into making something really special.
“Food is essential to life; therefore, make it good. – S. Truett Cathy”