I am the youngest of 5 kids. By the time I was 9 or 10 and interested in the kitchen, my 3 oldest brothers no longer lived at home. Scotty, 2 years older, was deep into sports and hardly ever home for dinner. My dad was rarely home before 8 or 9pm. My mom became a warmer. She worked full time and was progressing in her career. She warmed up Swanson TV dinners, Campbell’s soup, made Hamburger Helper, Kraft Mac & Cheese.
I went off to college with my warming skills, knowing little more than how to brown ground beef. I didn’t even know how to chop a vegetable, as mom always used dried onions, garlic & onion powder, Johnny’s seasoning.
I got married. Honey knew how to cook. His mom taught him if you have a recipe and the ingredients you can make anything. Together we started going to the library, checking out cookbooks and making our grocery list. On a tight budget we made dinner together most nights. I got pretty good at following a recipe.
But I REALLY learned how to cook from the Food Network. I watched Rachel Ray cook her 30-minute meals. Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentiis became my obsession. I watched Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Iron Chef, Mystery Diner, Restaurant Impossible. I became inspired, downloading recipes, studying and copying their skills. My family was always willing to try something new. The only dinner table rule: everyone try a bite, no negative comments until dinner was over. We voted with our thumb if we would try the recipe again. Many never made it back to the table. Some recipes were down right awful.
The Chew was my cooking turning point. Michael Symon encouraged me to figure it out with what I liked, what I had in the fridge. Michael and the rest of the Chew crew suggested lots of options when they shared a recipe; substitute this protein for that, use this veggie or spice instead of what the recipe called for. My confidence grew. My knife skills improved. I really started to enjoy cooking.
Last night I made my version of Mackenzie’s Spaghetti Squash with Thai Peanut Sauce. I used what I had on hand; stir frying a few shrimp and bok choy to add on
top. It was delicious. Yummo!
Leave a comment on your cooking story. I would love to hear how you learned to cook, what recipes you love to make, who your influences were. Jo