Friday, April 22, 2011

As the Cook Turns–a Sequel to Confessions of a Cooking Novice

You laughed at my cooking confession but imagine my surprise the day after I posted that, when I received an invitation from the Cooking Club of America to test cooking products. I had to wonder, did they have a new type microwave available? No, my cooking prowess has been discovered! “It’s no secret among your friends and family that you are an outstanding cook!” There it was in black and white on the page, my friends and family feel that I am an outstanding cook. What a surprise! So why haven’t they ever mentioned it to me???

Well, out-standing where I don’t know, but if I accept this invitation I get to test a variety of cooking products and answer questionnaires regarding the performance of the products (not the performance of the cook). Then I get to keep the products. Hmmm. Where will I put them? The kitchen countertop is already taken up with the humungous microwave and Black and Decker toaster oven that Neil Farrell said would burn my house down (it hasn’t) and the kitchen table holds the wine rack with bottles of wine, the rice and vegetable steamer, and the Cuisinart grill. Hmmm. Maybe I can clean off the top of the refrigerator!

And wasn’t I delighted to read that they would be interested to receive my best tips and techniques and would publish them in Cooking Club magazine. Gee, should I really let the world know my best tip? When warming up the muffins that you brought home in a doggy bag from Bob’s Big Boy, do not put them in the microwave for three minutes on high unless you have a special need for hockey pucks. Surely someone already has discovered my best cooking technique – boiling water and pouring it on dehydrated potato flakes. Do be sure to fluff the results with a fork. I am sure this is a skill every good cook should know.

Man, they even want my best recipe, one that has been tested and approved by my family and friends. What do you say to that friends and family?!!? This is my chance to spread the word about my new culinary sensation and have my name and recipe in a national magazine! Let’s see, recipe, recipe, hmmmm. Say, why don’t my friends and family write in and tell me what that recipe is?
Okay, in this invitation I got a nice little recipe pad to record my culinary inventions, and a magnetized chart of measurements like 2/3 of a cup equals 158 milliliters. Boy am I glad I don’t have to do that math figuring anymore. Then there is this plastic white thing with different sized holes in it. The holes have numbers 1 through 4 under them. I’m not Cooking-002Asure what to use this for but after studying it for a minute I think it would make a great template for drawing a cat’s paw! What that has to do with cooking, I don’t know, but I think they must have used Gordo’s paw for this design. Gordo is a BIG kitty!
Recently I journeyed out from slaving in my kitchen and visited OstrichlaOstrichland-5nd down near Pea Soup Andersen Buellton and found out that they sell ostrich and emu eggs. They sell ostrich meat too but I can’t quite get myself to go that far. But the egg intrigues me. It would make one heck of an omelet. My only problem will be trying to figure out how to crack the thing. Probably have to use a hammer.
Well, thanks to a crummy colon section that has to be removed I’ve been on a low residue diet for weeks and weeks. I have to tell you there is nothing gourmet about soft chicken and fish over white rice. I really can’t understand why Asians are crazy about this rice. It has no taste and and if you don’t eat it right away it turns into a gummy, lumpy mess that would probably be better used to plugs cracks in the bathroom grouting.

So will I accept the invitation from the Cooking Club?

Get real!

Poaching – Stealing and it’s a sin.
Medallions – Awards of valor for cooks
Methylcellulose – Not something you want to eat!
Mouse – A small dark rodent
Blanching – Please don’t do this at the table – go to the bathroom!

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!