I happen to think I’m a pretty good cook.
If that’s not to forward of me to say.
I make a pretty mean Smashed Potato, and I am well known for my gourmet salads. My chicken is usually juicy, and my roasts are tender and flavorful. I can stir-fry, sauté, flambé, char, blacken, grill, roast, bake, and fry. I can chop, dice, and mince up Mirepoix for my homemade soups, stews, and sauces. I’ve learned through trial and error, which spices are best suited for international dishes, which herbs best complement different kinds of meat, and which vinaigrettes can be used as a marinade.
I blame the after school hours of being a latch-key kid, who was left to watch a full hour of Cooking with Julia on PBS each day. She filled my mind with all the tasty ways one could conjure up a culinary delight in as little as thirty minutes.
Through the years, I’ve been through many different seasons of cooking. As a young teenager, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making all kinds of messes for my mom to clean up. I would regularly honor my family with a special napkin fold or a garnish on each plate, often a unique arrangement of edibles to fancy things up. We went from using convenience foods and TV dinners, to making things from scratch.
As a newly married wife, I labored over the stove in a similarly driven fashion, working hard to make each meal special for Saul. One year, for my new years resolution, I learned how to make 12 new Mexican style dishes. I’m not afraid to admit, that it was my own futile attempt to win over my husbands love affair with his own mother’s cooking. There’s just something about mom’s cooking for that man…
Having children has posed some unique challenges to my time in the kitchen. The food that I’d been accustomed to cooking and eating, was no longer a tasty choice for my particular and picky kids. As a very young toddler, Nate was often noted to say, “This food is too tasty for me!” just before excusing himself to go elsewhere in the house. And I’ve never been one to make special meals for my children. No different meals from what Saul and I are eating. Our motto is:
You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
While I would love to be able to offer them more culinary choices, and thus hear a lot less complaining, we are limited by budget, time, and energy levels each day.
Around here, the kitchen is always popping with new recipes and old ones too. I work very hard to keep things interesting and fresh, and challenge myself regularly to introduce new things to my family.
Just in the last year have I begun to learn how to make homemade bread. And I’ve been baking biscuits for so long, that I no longer use a recipe for them, favoring instead to just pour the flour about this much, and add about that much shortening, and stir in milk until it’s sticky…
Baking hasn’t really been a strength of mine, but I’m coming around. My cakes don’t fall nearly as often as they used to. My cookies are more often soft and chewy now, instead of the hard and crumbly ones I used to make. I still have a lot to learn in the dessert area, and rely heavily on good old fashioned recipes to get by.
While my kids do grumble and complain a fair amount about what I make, they all have their favorites. And whenever something new is tried, and they like it, a chorus of will you add this to our family cookbook please, is sure to follow suite. Isaac is by far the easiest one to please, and likes most anything I fix. Nate is much more picky though, and requests that sauces be left off, and seasonings be put to the side. No dressings or gravies for him because he prefers his food to be plain and simple. He does love the bread that I make, and breakfasts are usually his favorite because they nearly always have eggs.
Elaina loves anything sweet.
Every new dessert she tries is toted to being her favorite in the whole wide world. Elaina’s world wide web of desserts is growing bigger by the week, but she is just like me and will go into a temporary depression if she goes too long without chocolate. Olivia is still too little to say much, though she echo’s the praises that her older siblings shout out. She could probably live off of pancakes and bread if I would allow it.
I like to take pictures of what we are eating, because food is an important part of our family time together. We are very deliberate around here about sitting down for our meals together. The kids and I eat all three meals together, and most days, Saul eats both breakfast and dinner with us. It’s part of why I’ve resisted joining all of the evening commitments that families are often lured into. I’m not ready to give up our precious family time to make way for clubs, sports, and other extracurriculars just yet.
One of these days, I want to make a cookbook for each of the kids. It’ll be a sort of scrapbook-memoir-how-to cookbook if that makes any sense. That’s another reason why I take a lot of pictures of the food I make, so that I can include them in my l’il project down the road. Something to keep when they’ve grown and moved out of the house. For those times they are homesick and want Mom’s recipe for Biscuits and Gravy, or Triple Chocolate Cake for a dinner party they are hosting. Something to share with their spouse’s and children.
Maybe I’ll have to get started on that sooner than I thought….
It may take me a while!