Sunday, April 10, 2011

Confessions of a Cooking Novice

Upon reaching tender old age I realized that it was overdue for me to learn how to cook. However, a person who needs to drop 30-plus pounds probably shouldn’t start their lessons making chocolate Christmas cookies. Ruth Ann Cooking 006A person should though, take lessons from a pro. Learning to cook from Mom may not be a good idea, at least not the way my Mom cooked.

Growing up, my siblings and I didn’t know any better. We thought everyone had meals like ours. It wasn’t until I made friends with some Italian girls at school and had the good fortune to be invited for dinner at their homes that I realized my Mom was not a good cook.

I think her attitude about cooking came from a deep seated conviction that there should be more to life for a female than cooking and cleaning house. Whatever the reason, our meals were bland and tasteless, so developing an educated palate required me to either learn to cook myself or eat out at good restaurants. I chose the restaurants.

I have for years been expert at turning out wonderful Marie Callender, Banquet, and Swanson TV dinners. I’ve even developed a distinguished palate regarding them voting the Marie Callender meals the best. But none of them turn out a wonderful rare and juicy steak or a sumptuous lamb chop. It was time for me to learn how to turn out a good meal.

What good fortune it was that I met a great chef just arrived on the Central Coast from New York City. And better good fortune that she wanted to learn photography, my area of expertise. A pact was formed. I would teach her how to take good photos and she would teach me how to cook. I am sure I had the easier job!

My first lesson was just before Christmas and took place at my teacher’s kitchen where all the necessary tools were available. Cookies were our goal, primarily chocolate cookies. I decked out in an appropriate Christmas red apron and began to sift the flour, crack the eggs, melt the delicious chocolate. Our goal was for cookies and chocolate truffles.

Ruth Ann Cooking 003Okay, sift the flour, stir the melting chocolate, whip the eggs. Fortunately the recipes did not call for separating the egg yolk from the whites. Perhaps that will come later in my tutelage.

Oh my, it’s necessary to have three hands in the kitchen! One is stirring, one is turning down the heat on the stove, and then there is one needed for running the mixer.

Ruth Ann Cooking 002

I could see right away that I would need to purchase a number of tools for my kitchen. There was the Hamilton Beach Mix-Master – where do you get one of those? I haven’t seen one since growing up in the 50s. Oh yes, and sharp knives are a necessity. I have since gone out and bought new knives only to nearly slice off the top of my thumb while carving some meat. Bleeding onto your food is not a good thing. There must be a technique to using these knives.

I did get a small grill. How did I live without a grill before? This thing is a God-send. Spice up your meat, slap it on the grill, and presto, in two minutes it’s done. It beats the microwave, which before the grill was my ultimate cooking tool.

And why did I ever prepare rice in pot on the stove? Good grief there is such a thing as a rice cooker! Fill it with water, throw in the rice, set the timer, and voila, perfect rice. And for that matter perfectly steamed veggies. No more mush vegetables boiled in a pot or microwaved to death.

Yes, having the right tools definitely aids in learning how to cook. Now if I only knew what one uses turmeric for I would be rolling along.

So I watch the food channel and see all the fine chefs whipping meals together with a dash of this and a pinch of that. Oh my, well, I can take a pinch or two myself!

Ruth Ann Cooking 004

Ah! I needed that! Bon Appetit!


MrsH said...

Oh Aunt Ruth! I love your blogs!

Anne R. Allen said...

Aren't those kitchen toys tempting? I adore my George Foreman grill. And I can tell myself it's helping me watch my weight. I know people who swear by rice cookers, too.

Sounds like you're having a blast. But watch out: the Food Network can be addictive!