I put it down to seeing Graham Kerr (“The Galloping Gourmet”) when I was young. And of course Julia Child.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen when I was a child—unless I wanted to make my tuna and rice “snack” which is still my comfort food today.
In the Philippines, where I was born, my mother had staff to do the cooking. I would sneak off into the kitchen and have a “treat” with the cook now and then. And of course observe.
When we returned to the US she was a full-time mom who always had meals ready. That’s when I was given my marching papers. If she wasn’t in the kitchen and I was home from school and hungry I could make tuna and rice. There was a special saucepan for the rice.
My mother cooked everything else. The kitchen was her domain. As a child, whenever my parents had caterers in I was sent into the kitchen to sit and spy, to be debriefed later by my mother—for new ideas and ways of executing things.
My mother had finally found a way to harness my acute observational skills.
I never thought much about not cooking when I was young. I had access to unlimited amounts of tuna and rice any time I wanted.
But when I moved in with Dick after graduate school and had a kitchen—wow! And a guy who loved to eat, and happily tried anything I attempted.
Today I posted another bread photo on Instagram, and thought, besides being grateful for the great ingredients I still have access to even though there is a global pandemic and the US has just lived through a failed insurrection, I’m very grateful for my life in food, as a cook, with Dick as a main “audience.” Of course he gets rewarded with things like whole wheat croissants (which I worked out how to make in the 1980s when our favorite bakery closed) but he’s positive even when things like curried eggplant show up in a condition I deem inedible (he always eats it anyway).
Since the kitchen renovation never happened I work with a narrow strip of counter top, usually frustrated that I don’t have space to expand, but often amazed at what can be done in such a small space. (Whole wheat croissant need more space though!)
Recently I’ve discovered prep bowls. If you don’t use them, well, you might give it a try. I have fast knife skills and can usually just work along as I cook, but lately, trying new recipes for the no-restaurant-eating-pandemic-reality, I’ve found that prep bowls are the way to go. Any kitchen supply offers ridiculously inexpensive stainless steel bowls in a variety of sizes. I just smile when I think of them all standing on that small counter space waiting expectantly.
Until the pandemic we had an “I-cook-and-he-cleans-up-the-dishes” arrangement. Now in the pandemic he works from home and I’ve been wrapping up my business—so I’ve taken on the cleaning aspects too. (Except for the Dutch ovens and heavy cast iron pans because lifting them to clean them gives my shoulder fits—he even has to flip the pineapple upside down cake now!)
I’ve adopted the clean as you go method. Some chef I saw on TV advocated this—saying she was told when she started that her station was always messy so she started cleaning as she went…I really don’t know why I never applied this to cooking before. It’s pretty much the method I use when creating paintings and such.
I find it such a useful time management tactic as well. When everything is ready, I can sit down with Dick and eat. And neither one of us has to face dirty dishes afterwards.
I can see why some people I see on the renovation shows I also watch opt for two dishwashers. Sometimes I feel that would be really great—but then my cooking might really get out of hand.
I guess it helps too that Dick doesn’t mind that I talk to my yeast—incessantly. Really, every time I go through the room, or constantly if I am standing there working on something else. Sometimes I make songs up on the spur of the moment and sing to them about things like the stretch and fold we’re going to do next. I think it’s good to give them a heads up. I find that happy yeast means a successful loaf of bread. And it makes me pretty happy too.
Dick just walks through the kitchen and smiles, gives me a hug, and says, “You’re adorable.” At my age, after 41 years of weird curries I’ve proffered up, I’ll take that!
Cooking Shows to Check Out
If you haven’t watched “The Great British Baking Show” you might give it a try. It’s available on PBS I believe (at least the first few seasons. Then it’s produced by a new company I believe and some things changed. I saw all of it on Netflix while I was recovering from cataract surgery and getting used to my new eyes. I was quite addicted. And inspired. I even came up with three new variation ons Baked Alaska. (So what?! you say, well it’s a dessert that has a special meaning for me…also from childhood.)
Of course there are tons of other shows, Top Chef (I’m a total fan), Chopped, I wrote about it in this post. Iron Chef, and the competition shows to be the next Iron Chef, Beat Bobby Flay (I always want Flay to win, I just think it’s so sad everyone is ganging up on him). You get the idea. Of course there are also the Kid’s Baking Championship shows and some new offerings to make crazy food and use leftovers on Netflix. (Also on Netflix is “The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell” which should have been renewed! Puppets, baking, decorating, and sinister visitors.)
Got to go—the bread has cooled off and we are going to cut into it!