On cooking (and baking)
Based on a prompt from Plinky: Can you cook?
I have never been very interested in cooking. I come from a family of very good cooks who have always taken their roles quite seriously and, thus, never really had the opportunity or motivation to learn. Of course, I could make simple things, like bacon and eggs, hamburgers. I could do most things that didn’t require more than mixing one or two things together and throwing them in to a frying pan. This served me reasonably well, even when I was living away in Alberta. Cooking for just one person is never all that much fun, and I wasn’t willing to invest much in developing my skills when I could cook very simple things that I was pretty happy with.
Once I got an audience, however, someone to cook for on a regular basis, cooking started to matter much more than it had previously. In some ways, my mother is both the best and the worst person to cook for. Her motto is “if someone else makes it, it’s delicious.” This is great, because I know that she’ll never give me too hard of a time if I make a mistake or two, but also a little difficult because I’ll only improve if I get constructive feedback. The best thing about cooking for my mother, though, is the fact that she’s not picky. She will try pretty well anything and doesn’t have any particular aversion to ethnic foods (though she definitely likes European cooking the best).
And in this environment I’m learning a lot. I’ve made Italian food, Chinese food, several Indian curries and a lot of interesting dishes that I would never have tried if I was just cooking for myself. While some dinners have turned out better than others, I haven’t had any major disasters. Initially, I was expecting to have some dishes turn out very badly, but I think this was mostly popular fiction playing with me a little bit. Though I have to say that I think my basic knowledge of cooking is probably a little higher than most other beginner cooks just due to my growing up in a house where cooking was important. I’ve been surprised over the years at how little some of my friends know about food, and I think the knowledge I have has definitely helped me achieve these small successes. I hope to continue learning and developing my skills.
I have had a few minor baking disasters, but these were mostly due to recipes that we just wound up not liking. The pumpkin pie cupcakes that I had intended to serve for dessert at Thanksgiving (October in Canada) wound up having a wet and squishy texture that my mother and I just couldn’t stand. There was a terrible banana bread at one point as well, and last week’s dry chocolate cookies. Despite these mistakes, I think I actually like baking more cooking.
My friends have enjoyed this as well, since they’ve been eating the results. I think I might be a little addicted — there’s something really amazing about feeding the people you love and seeing them enjoy it.