Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let's Drink Some Wine and Curk a Tookey!!

I love to cook. When I was younger I had considered going to culinary school. How do you know when I am truly happy? I am in the kitchen. I am not a great cook, but I am a good cook. Nothing I cook will win the James Beard Award, but it will satisfy and make my friends and loved ones smile.

People are surprised when I tell them I can cook (they are also surprised when I build a fence or fix an oil leak in my car or start a campfire, but that is neither here nor there). When asked how I make something taste sooooooo good, I tell them I "put a little Love into it". Yes, I know that sounds all hippy dippy cliched and shit, but it is true. When you love doing something you put every ounce of yourself into doing it. That is when it turns out beautiful. That is when the magic happens and it becomes a shortcake instead of a plain old scone or turns Sunday night beef stew into boeuf bourguignon.

I love cook books, I have a few older ones from the 30s and 40s. The recipes all call for a pound of butter or a half cup of lard or heavy cream and I love recipes like that!! Don't get me wrong, I make my fair share of vegetarian and healthy food dishes, but when a recipe calls for bacon drippings, I start to salivate. I keep a pickle jar of bacon drippings for cooking. I also have a containing of duck fat, specifically for potatoes. You do not know joy until you have roasted potatoes in duck fat!

Occasionally, I can be a food snob. But I have also been known to stop at Popeye's Chicken, because they make an AWESOME spicy fried chicken. I also like Sonic Drive-Ins and have to stop there anytime I go on a road trip. I like little hole in the wall restaurants and I like those places where I must put on my best pair of Spanx. I like good food and I like when I find some weird little restaurant hidden in an alley as much as I like the fanciest roof-top restaurants.
But I mainly like to cook at home, I like feeling all the ingredients under my fingers and the scents mingling. I like how my house smells after baking bread or cookies or roasting a chicken. It smells like a home should smell.

I took an after school cooking class many years ago when I was a latch key kid. It was a way for my mother to have someone to watch over me for a few hours in the afternoons and it was a way for me to learn how to make hobo stew. It was probably the first thing I ever learned how to cook. After that I was on my way to being a home chef. The next item I cooked was zucchini bread, but forgot the oil and my mother kindly ate it and gently said... "I think you may have forgotten something in the recipe..." And I was on my way!

I tend to like cooking from scratch. I like real unprocessed ingredients, most of the time, although I am not above making brownies from the a mix when I am have a choco-attack. But you get a much better product that is healthier for you when you make it by scratch, you don't have the glut of preservatives and colouring or artificial flavours (what is chocolate-y flavour, anyways?!). I admit I have no problems with purchasing things to make my life easier, I do not believe I will try to make wonton wrappers by scratch anytime soon, but simple things like cookies and cakes do not need to come from a box. Trust me, a lemon chiffon cake made from scratch is one hundred times better than Betty Crocker's boxed stuff.

I love to experiment with foods and although I have a shit-ton of cookbooks, I tend to use those as reference books and then take the long way round to see if a pinch of this or a dash of that will make it even better. I have had my fair share of failures. The strata I did not allow to sit long enough to soak up the egg mixture that became a hockey puck. Or the chocolate pudding that wouldn't set no matter what I tried. Or even the chunky creme brulee (still gives me the shivers...).But I keep trying, Julia Child did not learn to cook until she was in her 30s.

I love to cook for my boyfriend and he is a very good eater. He also has no qualms about telling me when something is not quite right, which is the only way to truly figure out if a dish is amazing or just, eh. You need the feedback, I do not like to hear that something is always good as you don't grow as a cook if you do not know if something needs to be tweaked. And when you finally get a recipe correct it is as though you have finally summited a mountain! Ok, maybe not that cool,,, but it is still pretty darn awesome!

All I know is that food brings friends together, heck it brings strangers together. Food makes people smile when shared and good food makes people smile even more. It encourages community and good conversation and laughter and drinking. Good food shared brings joy and everyone likes a bit of joy whereever they can get it.  The best bit of advice I ever got from my mother was "Never say no to a free meal". She was right.

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