Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Knowing What I Don't Know

It wasn't until recently that I realized I was terrible at cooking.

Well, I shouldn't say terrible. Just not very good.

When I'm cooking for myself, I'm competent enough. I can make a stew, or a stir fry, or a simple pasta dish, that I greatly enjoy. But I get kind of tired of cooking the same thing over and over again, and it turns out that my tastes run on the bland end. I blame my stint at a wilderness school, where we ate a paleo diet with no salt,  no pepper - no seasonings whatsoever. It reset my palate, I guess, and now what I consider "salty enough" is very bland to most other people. Combine that with my limited experience with different recipes, and I wind up with a rather boring cooking experience.

I lived in ignorant bliss of this fact until recently, when D started dating two lovely women who are also incredibly talented cooks. As I became friends with them, I started enjoying more and more of their cooking, which I quickly realized blew mine out of the water. When I listen to them talk about cooking, I realize they're talking in a language I barely understand, if at all. They use terms for sauces and methods of cooking that I've never heard of, and I feel like a child when I ask them to explain them to me.

But, dammit, I realized I was never going to improve if I didn't swallow my pride and ask them to teach me their mysterious ways. And so I did, and one of them, Am,  gave me the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook with the promise that she'd help me learn.

I vaguely remember my mother having this cookbook when I was a small child. The bold red-and-white plaid cover is instantly recognizable. Am calls it "the Bible of cooking." I don't recall any specific recipes that my mother used from it, but I'm sure it informed her cooking in the same way that the Bible informs my family's celebration of Christmas. My mother vaguely attempted to pass on her cooking skills to me, but - like her attempts to instill Christianity within me - she was unsuccessful. In the case of religion, I rejected it wholecloth and went pagan (though at this point my parents are basically agnostic anyway, so I don't think they went to church for any reason except a sense of duty towards their parents). In the case of cooking, I can't exactly stop eating and opt for an alternative, so I might as well pick up where my mother left off and teach myself.

D has already eagerly volunteered to be my guinea pig. My brother has also agreed to help me with a project of cooking each and every food available in the game Skyrim. I've already done some preliminary research on what sorts of recipes I could use. I'm sure I'll share my adventures here. It'll be a learning experience for me.

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