Over the years, one statement I have heard from people that has always both surprised me and frustrated me is the claim, “I can’t cook, I can’t even boil water.” My rebuttal has always been, “If you can read, you can cook.”
I was fortunate that both of my parents liked to cook and liked to share their knowledge. I learned how to fry chicken (and other meats) mainly by watching my father do it. I learned how to cook steaks by watching my mother and paying attention. My sister taught me to scramble eggs. By the time I was ten years old, I was often making myself pancakes for Sunday supper. We would often go to my Aunt Sara Newton’s or my grandmother’s for Sunday dinner and even if we stayed home for dinner, it might be middle of the afternoon when we’d eat. Since I was a growing boy with the correspondent massive appetite, I’d be hungry again sooner than anyone else, ask Mom, “What’s for supper?” and be told “Catch as catch-can” which translated to “Whatever you want to make for yourself.” Hence, pancakes.
I do not do much in the way of baking. I joke sometimes that I didn’t receive the baking gene but the reality is, baking usually requires more effort than I want to put in. (I will say, I was happy when my older cousins gave me “permission” to use frozen biscuits rather than having to make them from scratch.)
But back to my original statement above, “If you can read, you can cook.” When someone asks me about cookbooks, I pretty much always recommend The Joy of Cooking first. It offers thousands of basic recipes but more importantly, it gives good definitions of the various cooking terms and phrases. Learning what the cooking phrases mean goes a long way to learning how to cook.
Other cookbooks I use frequently are a couple of cookbooks that were put out by churches back in my hometown. One in particular was put together by one of my first cousins which we have jokingly referred to as “the family cookbook” as roughly a quarter of the recipes were submitted by family members. Why would a church sponsored cookbook be so good? Because most of the submitters are giving their second or third best recipes to share. What? You don’t think everyone is going to give up their best do you? But even with the second and third best selections, you will find a lot of tasty options.
One year for Christmas, a cousin gave me a copy of The White Trash Cooking. This cookbook uses humor but offers good cooking tips as well.
I titled this diary Playing With Your Food to make this point. Find recipes for food you want to try. The recipe might be from a cookbook, might be from a friend, might be from the newspaper or a magazine advertisement, or it might be from a MyFDL Food Sunday diary. The first time you use the recipe, follow the written instructions to see how it goes. But once you have made it, feel free from that point to change things around as far as ingredients, spices, what have you. Experiment. Play with your food. Make it to your taste and your style. Enjoy!
And because I can:
Photo from startcooking kathy & amandine licensed under Creative Commons