Yesterday I mentioned rocky starts. None of us are born with any experience whatsoever. I was no exception.
If my mother owned a cookbook, she hid it away much as one would stash a pornographic bodice ripper so the children wouldn’t be corrupted. As a consequence, I led a childhood of blissful and unsullied innocence. Convenience foods were the stock and trade of family meals, right down to the frozen spaghetti dinners and Swanson staples. I didn’t know there was another way.
Sharing an apartment in graduate school with three other girls brought my ignorance into the open. We each cooked one night a week, and my pitiful contribution – every week – was pancakes. I could make these from scratch, sort of. At least that was my impression. It was one not shared by my roommates, however, and after three weeks I was re-assigned to washing dishes and the cooking was left to the others. I was inept. I was a cooking pariah.
That was the year I lost my innocence. When I discovered you could make lemon meringue pie without first opening a box of My-T-Fine powdered lemon pie filling mix and purchasing a ready-made pie crust at the grocery store, I began to suspect there was a whole world I wasn’t privy to.
My eyes had been opened. My curiosity had been awakened. I became a snoop. Some snoops check out the medicine chest when visiting friends and relatives. Not me. I scoped out the kitchen and there I found treasure.
I discovered that people actually wrote books about cooking food. Breads, casseroles, desserts, main courses – there was no end to the wonder! These books weren’t hidden away – they were out in the open, shamelessly peddling their wares.
I began to read cookbooks as if they were mystery novels, which, in a manner of speaking, they were. I looked for clues- these were the ingredients. I followed the plots – appetizer led to salad which led to main course which led to dessert. I studied the characters – Julia and James and a host of other cooks – people who actually made their living cooking!
With a cookbook propped open by the typewriter, I typed recipes and filed them in folders. Eventually, I needed a filing cabinet to hold them. No longer a child, I was ready to enter the adult world. I was ready to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner – from scratch.
Tomorrow: How to Explode a Turkey
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