Cooking Therapy

My mother is an amazing cook.

I've heard time and time again the story that "when I came to this country, I couldn't even boil water!", but one taste of a meal on her table, and you'd never know it.

Growing up with a gourmet chef is a little intimidating, and not exactly a good learning environment.

No helping, no suggestions, no way to learn. It was always easier for her to "just do it herself".

For years after moving out of my parents' house, I was intimidated to cook. To try anything less than a box of macaroni and cheese or ramen noodles.

I mean, how could anything I make even compare?

And so, for years I subsisted on tinned soups, boxed meals, microwave meals.

And then something changed - I got my own kitchen, a few more dollars to spend at the grocery store, and apparently, a little more courage.

Since moving into Highland Cottage, I've tried recipes I never would have dared, fully knowing that if I fail, it's not a crisis. I won't starve. I won't embarass myself by having to serve it to anyone. I won't decide never to cook again.

I've had disaters, sure. The scallops that just weren't QUITE right, the baked casserole that turned into an icky, crunchy mess, the mousse that ended up more on the walls than in the bowl.

But I've had a few triumphs as well...especially on meals that were never made in the house growing up.

A great fried rice, a kickass meatloaf, a lemonade pie to die for in the middle of summer.

And as I've cooked more and more, I've learned that I really enjoy it - whether the meals turns out or not, I enjoy the process. No, I wouldn't want to make four course meals every day, but I enjoy the smaller nuances of cooking that used to be so elusive...

Seasoning with more than just table salt - now it's kosher salt, garlic galore, oregano, parsley and more.

Timing parts of a meal to come out at once - the chicken being just done when the broccoli is ready to serve.

Examining a new recipe, gathering the ingredients, and then saying to hell with it - and improvising with what I like.

A couple of years ago, I never would have made Potage Parmentier (potato and leek soup) out of a Julia Child cookbook. I never would have bought tilapia. I never would have experimentally breaded zucchini and baked it to golden goodness.

I'm learning that cooking isn't chemistry, it's not an exact science - it's a feeling, a hunch and some flair.

And it's good therapy.

I'm not professing to be a great cook, or even a good one.

Instead, I'm more of a brave cook than I ever was.

And maybe I'm beginning to enjoy the process of turning on some music, assembling ingredients, chopping and mincing and tossing things together more than the end result.

Which can only bode well for my diet, in any case.

My mother is an amazing cook, and more than anything, I want to make her a meal that makes her say "That was wonderful!"

Because that is more validation in my eyes than anything else.

I want to cook for her, and show her how much I enjoy the process she mastered so many years ago.

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