I have never been comfortable in the kitchen. I never liked to cook. My husband would take control when guests arrived. He is a great cook, and he loves to entertain. My discomfort was the result of my mother’s meals. She didn’t enjoy cooking either. It was a rare occasion when she would surprise us with something new. I considered cooking a chore and never looked forward to preparing meals.
I relied on fast food and frozen dinners. I had my basic dinners that my family liked. Now that my children are adults, I’ve discovered at the age of 55, my passion is cooking. Yes, this comes from the same woman who said, “the only way my oven would be on is if I accidentally fell on the knob.” My inspiration was the Food Network, with Ina Garten, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray. They inspired me to try new recipes. They made cooking interesting with their stories and how they made cooking look fun and easy. I realized I love to cook, and I love planning meals. Prepping for dinner is my way of relaxing. Who knew that I would be introduced to so many vegetables, herbs and a variety of fish? I love to watch food being prepared and the different techniques involved.
I gradually came to my epiphany after we moved from New Jersey to California. I was unemployed and trying out new recipes for dinner. I decided to make guacamole and enchiladas from scratch. I guess I should have paid closer attention to the recipe. My hands were on fire from chopping up chiles. My son came in from school, I asked him to search the internet for remedies. Milk was my salvation. I soaked my hands in milk, and the burning subsided. I felt adventurous; I grilled hot dogs on the grill for the first time.That was my second venture out of my comfort zone. That same year, I made gravy without my husband. I was apprehensive, but I talked myself through it. After all, this is just gravy, right? I did it, and it was good. My family will often whine when they think I am testing recipes. They prefer the dinners they are familiar with. The basics, without the fancy names or ingredients.
I have also mastered some of the terminology: mise en place, chiffonade, and sous vide. I walk through the grocery store looking for inspiration. Maybe I will try Swiss chard or rhubarb? The greens, yellows and reds are all so vivid and offer possibilities. I prepared a salad with arugula, watermelon and feta cheese. My family loved it, but I didn’t like the arugula. It tasted like rubber, if you’ve ever chewed on a rubber band. There were so many recipes that featured kale. I prepared kale sautéed in pancetta with onions. No, kale is not for me either. I don’t expect to love everything I try. I will strive to expand my catalog of recipes from two sheets of paper to a binder. Remember, I’m still in the learning curve here. There are no plans to take this show on the road. I am content to explore this passion by using my family as my “ taste testers.“