Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Feed your family, feed your soul

This is inspired by Clam's recent post.

I too never learned to cook. I told you some time back about how my mother was convinced the oven was broken and never used it again; she didn't use the stovetop much, either. I could boil water, which meant mac and cheese and spaghetti. We still had "home ec" in middle school so I did learn how to make scrambled eggs. But actually baking anything? No.

I did have some brushes with food preparation while younger, even if I don't count the summer I worked at Burger King. The semester after I came back from France I lived in an on-campus house where once a week we had to prepare dinner for the residents of the house, so I could hum a few bars and fake it. [In my interview to live in the house, I was asked if I could cook. I answered, "Je peux lire," or I can read. I was assured that was meaningless, but I beg to differ. It was a man asking--perhaps he had the stereotypical masculine difficulty with directions.]

Another friend asked recently if I have gourmet meals nightly. The answer to that is laughable--no. I aim for a meat, a starch, and a vegetable on plates, and if I can prepare them in one pan so much the better.
Bread and butter counts as a starch. A salad is a vegetable, and if it's one of those Dole bagged deals, the bag serves as the salad bowl too. Hey, I don't have to wash it.

The worst accident I ever had cooking was before we were married. I was trying to make a beef stew and the recipe instructed me to coat the beef in flour before browning it. Ever obedient, I took the jar of white powdery stuff and put a tablespoon of it in the bag with the meat, then proceeded with the rest of the recipe.
It was horrible. Nasty. Inedible. I should have guessed I screwed up somewhere when the meat was foaming in the pan before I added any other ingredients. My beloved, though, would have choked down a whole bowl (covered with an entire jar of Mrs. Dash) if I hadn't said I couldn't eat it. He went and retrieved McDonald's for us.
The next week, I tried a different stew recipe--my grandmother's. This time, he was home while I was cooking. When I decided the stew needed thickening and grabbed the same jar as before, he asked, "What are you doing?"
"Adding flour to thicken the stew." I felt really smart for a moment.
"That's not flour. That's baking soda."

What it comes down to is this. I married a man who knew the extent of my cooking experience. He still praises it. In the almost nine years we've been married, my confidence has grown to the point I can, with a little forethought, throw things together in a pan and it comes out pretty good.

It didn't happen in the first year, but it has happened. Of all domestic tasks, cooking is my favorite. The creativity involved, the smell of something delicious, the taste of something I made, the satisfied feeling in my belly knowing I did that... I love it.

Speaking of dinner, I need to go throw the split pea soup into the crock pot. It's been a pretty hectic week with no sign of slowing down.

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At 12:49 AM, Blogger Kasia said...

Thank you for posting this. Not only is it immensely comforting to know other women who entered marriage without knowing how to cook...but the story about mixing up flour and baking soda is priceless (no pun on your surname intended). I guess I can be grateful that I at least haven't done that... :-)

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous astorian said...

When I was little, my grandmother regularly made us spaghetti for lunch- she'd put hot, freshly boiled spaghetti on the plate, then pour cold Ragu on top, reasoning (correctly) that the heat of the spaghetti would warm the sauce sufficiently in a few seconds.

Her cooking skills, obviously, were nothing to write home about. But we didn't know any better, and we loved it. So, if my grandmother ever worried that she wasn't a good enough cook, she needn't have!

When you're cooking for kids, true cooking skills are probably wasted, anyway.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Catherine said...

I love split pea soup. The Husband detests anything that tastes of hamhock. Good thing I didn't know that before I married him. :)

I also taught myself how to cook, but it mainly happened before I married at 26. I'm a bit of a snob, though, I admit. There isn't a "mix" to be found in my house. If it's made, it came from the ingredient level. Today I made waffles and froze two exra mornings worth. The shape of my waffle iron is perfect for my toaster. :0)

I haven't mixed up flour and baking soda, but I have found that the baking soda must be the first dry ingredient added. I once took a bite of pancake and burned my mouth on a clump of baking soda. Ouch.


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