My friend, Cee, asked me to ramble on about my interest in food and cooking.
I learned to cook from my mother (because my father not only doesn’t cook much, but also doesn’t like most food), and she would measure ingredients with her hand and her eyes. To teach me how to make (not particularly authentic) curry, she would pour the flour into my hand so that I could get a feel of how much went into this particular recipe. And she did that many times before she ever let me make it on my own. Huh – and that recipe isn’t on my food blog yet. Good to know.
But I really got into cooking when I started Weight Watchers in high school and all of a sudden that standard rotation of dinners weren’t what I needed. I tried new foods, new cooking methods, and all kinds of new recipes.
And then what really got me confident in my ability to work from concepts to finished dishes was Highlander. See, there was this terrible episode called “Through a Glass Darkly.” The main plot would have been decent if it hadn’t been filmed in a tediously repetitive way. But the subplot! The subplot had my favorite character recovering ancient manuscripts (on white A1 office paper, but moving on) that had gotten damp in a church cellar or something. There was a discussion of a Roman cookbook author named Apicius and a dish called Lentils and Chestnuts, which looked like road tar but tasted delicious. And my mother and I heard that – and looked at each other – and then promptly went to the internet to see if this was random silliness or a real thing. And we ended up with a terrible translation and the discovery that Apicius just lists ingredients and doesn’t actually tell you quantities or really many details at all. And about half of the recipes ended with the direction, “If anything is missing, put it in,” which is rather like, “Adjust seasoning to taste,” only much more vague. So my mother researched how to obtain or substitute for the ingredients. And she bought a couple books on herbs (before then, it had just been thyme. No, really, just thyme. Dried, ground thyme. And salt. But we eschewed black pepper, too). And it was all a very dubious process – with both of us almost losing fingers to the chestnuts, and far more vinegar that the single capful we used for deviled eggs (which was the whole reason we even owned the 1 bottle of white distilled vinegar in the first place). And then halfway through, all of a sudden, you could smell the flavors coming together and turning into food. It was the most amazing thing ever.
In college, every freshman who is going to work on campus must work in the dining halls. I lasted about a month (with pink eye the very first week I was supposed to work, and then I just gave up and quit once I had mono). But over a couple of the summers I spent working at the library, I picked up additional work with the catering branch of dining services and I loved the fancier side of things and learned a few tricks of presentation (in addition to learning napkin folding in first grade with the gifted program).
Then there were a couple difficult years after college when I was living at home. I loved conspiring with my mother to keep trying new dishes and cuisines, but my father was pining for simple food. He ended up complete rebelling against spagetti because my mother kept putting “green stuff” in the sauce (no, not spinach. Bot even basil. But things like *fresh* thyme) and said that he’d really rather have tomato sauce straight from the can like his mother made for him, if that were all right, please.
And then I moved into my own place. \o/!