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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Me and cooking.

First off. I don’t cook.

Judge away if you like (I can see people shaking their head slowly, how CAN she admit to this!)

But wait, hear me out!

I make food for my family, sure but I really don’t lovingly create awe-inspiring Julia Childs worthy meals for my adoring family with pearls in place, a la June Cleaver.

Here are my reasons:
1) I don’t have the patience.
2) I luckily married a man who loves to cook.
3) I don't have the patience. (Oh, did I already say this?)

As my three year old said yesterday when I told him we needed to go inside and start dinner, “Why? Daddy does that!”

Good point kiddo.

Like all those with hang ups from our generation, I blame my childhood.

I come from a large family. I mean crazy-ass huge. I love them to death but as the second oldest I was assigned to cook a meal a day from age 12 onward. Maybe earlier. I would create these elaborate and creative lunches and dinners for my siblings (I remember making meat pies and strawberry pudding). Not that it scarred my psyche but I had my fill of cooking by the time I had my own family.

My husband however was raised on casserole and grilled cheese. He will stir a sauce all afternoon to get it just right.

I will open the freezer, the cabinet, the fridge, the freezer again and have no idea what to make.

Umm, spaghetti? Hmmm, we have noodles, no sauce though.

Come on kids, let’s go get a pizza.

I am terribly uncreative.

Maybe its the pressure. Being a mom/homemaker type has a lot of focus on creating food for your loved ones. I can remember the first real meal I made as a newlywed. Baked chicken sitting on top of a bed of rice, cooked in, gulp, canned mushroom soup. Nice, huh? A staple Midwestern meal. Of course I made enough for a small army (see large-ass family comment for reference) and the rice was crunchy because I forgot to put in the extra water. I am pretty sure my husband smiled and gulped it down. Quickly. With a large glass of water nearby.

My main problem is that I don’t like following recipes. I find them too…constraining. (recipe for disaster, you are thinking, right? insert smiley winky face guy.) I don’t like measuring. I never have all the ingredients. I like to throw some of this or that in.

I also have little personal interest in food. Sure, I can appreciate a great meal, chocolate, a good steak, chocolate, etc. But left to my own devices I would survive on Saltines and canned tuna... out of the can (so as to not have any dishes to wash).

My husband and kids however would NOT appreciate this sort of diet. So, out of necessity, I have found that once you know your way around a few dishes you can improvise and things turn out alright. Banana bread. I make good banana bread. Quiche also. Really good quiche. I can also whip up a great white sauce (I owe that one to my mother). I make great rice. I can roast a mean chicken. Pies. I make good pies. Also bread, yeast bread (OOOOH!)

A good cookbook, more of an instruction manual than a list of recipes, can help with this. I have learned a LOT about cooking from “How to cook everything: Simple recipes for great food,” by Mark Bittman. Want to know how to bake bread? A whole section describing the process is in here. Roasting a chicken? Same thing, it even has pictures. This book covers ethnic food, has ideas for meals “Elegant dinner menu” and “Picnic Lunch” and everything in between, it even has recipes for how to mix up the perfect cocktail. Now that is MY kind of cookbook.

The other thing that has helped is to create meal lists for the week, prior to grocery store trips (this also helps avoid those trips to the grocery store where you wander around for 45 minutes, end up spending a hundred bucks and have no idea what to make for dinner when you get home.) If a meal sounds appealing I will throw it up on the list. Then when we go grocery shopping I get stuff for that meal. Or I make sure to have things on the list with ground hamburger if we happen to have a lot on hand, things like that. I don’t do anything fancy like assign meals to certain days. That is a little TOO organized for me.

In any case, this method makes me feel really fancy and prepared.

And it helps me to avoid last minute trips for Take 'n Bake pizza.

Or, we could just go with the 3 year old suggestion and let daddy cook. (Which often happens.)
More on my favorite anti-recipe creations (lets call them, cooking techniques) down the line.

What are YOUR favorite tricks to make yourself organized in the kitchen? (And please, don't make me look TOO bad, ok folks? insert smiley face guy.)

Next up: Mommies and Facebook


  1. so i had to google june cleaver... but i love the blog. i use that cook book you gave me all the time! also couscous, cause it only takes 5 minutes to cook. also i just drink tea.

  2. Hey there lovely lady, I have just discovered your fabulous bloggin' - what a great find. This entry I find very humorous and very true. You may (or may not know) that I just finished culinary school - and even I feel like this many nights of the week. I try and always have the makings of a good stir fry, especially during veggies seasons, a good tamari/ginger/garlic sauce can go a long way. It's always good to have some organic canned beans, roasted nuts, and an herb garden out back. With those you can make any 'pasta' night jazzed up a bit. My parents used to do egg night. Where every child could have an egg anyway they liked it. We thought it was fun. Surely they thought it was easy!! Sending you lots of love from Philly. Lindsey

  3. beks - glad you are liking it. good call re the cous, i have been meaning to buy some to have on hand. esp nice for the summer...

    lindsey - i DID see that, and i am in awe. although i feel better knowing you have the same hang ups as me :) tell me about this sauce. can i buy it already made? sounds the egg night idea too. love back!

  4. A good stir fry sauce combination - you could probably find it somewhere in the store, but if you have the stuff in the kitchen (kind of pantry staples that are not very perishable) then it's super easy. Do it to taste, but rough estimates:
    1/3 c soy sauce, 2 tb mirin, 1 tb rice wine vinegar, 1 tb fresh ginger and 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tb water, a little chili powder if you are feeling daring. Mix all together - steam or stir fry veggies and then mix this with it. Sometimes I make rice noodles and toss it with sesame oil at the end. Super delish and great for those cool minnesota nights:). I love your blog lovely lady!!

    oh - also red quinoa. VERY high in protein for a grain. Mix it with all sorts of veggies, feta cheese, etc. great for picnics or super hot nights!

  5. Wow lindsey that sounds amazing. i am gonna put those ingredients up on the list. also rice noodles and sesame oil. or maybe i will just email this comment to steve ;) just kidding.

  6. That's my girl.......they were good meat pies though! ;)

  7. beks - you had to google june cleaver? love it...

    sara - this blog is fabulous. my dinner tonight? delivery thai, and it took me at least 4 tries to find a good delivery place in my neighborhood. the fact i found this place is totally satisfying. i'm very proud of my determination and fortitude in my avoidance of the kitchen.


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