When it comes to being a cook, I’m actually rather an unlikely candidate. I would venture to say that the majority of people who end up not only being decent cooks, but actually liking to cook, come by it via the time honored tradition of learning from their mother. (Not to be sexist or anything, but for people my age it was usually your mom that did the cooking. I know things are different now).
Not so with me. My mother was not a good cook. Worse still, she was one of those bad cooks who have no idea how bad they are. There was, in particular, a quite horrific meatloaf she made once a week that my oldest brother and I referred to years later as having “a scab” on the outside. So I grew up thinking I disliked a lot of foods, when in actuality I’d never had them prepared properly.
I don’t really know when I got interested in cooking – I did the cooking after I got married, but it certainly wasn’t something that I looked forward to. It may have started when I happened across a used copy of the sixth edition of Joy of Cooking (published in 1975 and the last to be edited by Marion Rombauer Becker, daughter of its original author, Irma Rombauer). This book’s wealth of information on ingredients and techniques, as well as recipes, delivered in a marvelous anecdotal style (that was lost in later editions) is what I think first showed me that food could be interesting. Honestly, if you can get your hands on a 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking, do it – granted some information is outdated after almost 45 years, but the majority of it still holds true and it’s just a fun book to read.
I think what really got me going was all the cooking shows that have proliferated in the last fifteen to twenty years. When I was growing up, the only cooking show of any note was “The Galloping Gourmet”, which I can barely remember since I was a very small child when it was on. What I do remember was Graham Kerr using lots of butter, drinking wine while he cooked and ending every show by leading a tittering house frau out of the audience to share whatever he’d just prepared. I certainly wasn’t old enough to comprehend the cooking angle, but I was amused by the faces he made when he tasted his dishes.
But now we have entire channels dedicated to food and cooking – not only the more traditional instructional shows, but cooking competitions, world traveling chefs exploring foods of different countries and cultures – you name it. I guess I wonder how anyone would NOT be interested in cooking these days.
Which brings me to another subject – foodies. Which, if we define it as someone who spends a lot of time researching and patronizing the hottest restaurants, is definitely something I am not. I am a cook. I actually get more enjoyment from cooking than eating, period. Weird, I know. But I’m fascinated with the process of cooking and creating dishes. When I do eat out, it’s more about getting inspiration for dishes, and I’m usually plotting on the way home how to recreate what I’ve just had and put my spin on it. Fine dining leaves me rather cold – it’s probably my lower middle class Polish Catholic upbringing, but it makes me uncomfortable dropping a hundred dollars for a meal. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that if you like it, but my joy comes from mastering a new dish myself.
So that’s a bit about me and where I’m coming from in the food and cooking arena. I’d like to hear some of your stories of how you got interested in cooking – who and what inspired you, etc. Meanwhile, I’ll be setting about planning the first posts where we really get down to business and do some actual cooking.