I remember in my naive and younger days following my mother around the kitchen on the rare occasion (usually a dinner party) she found herself there. Fascinated with various implements- sifters, beaters, scrapers -that she used I asked if she would teach me to cook. Without missing a beat she replied, “If you can read you can cook.” Ok, so I could barely see above the countertop but I could read. So I filed this very important information away.
A few years later I was following the housekeeper around the kitchen as she prepared our fried chicken for that night. She did not seem to mind my being there, so I watched her carefully as she took the chicken pieces, dredged (I did not know this word then, only that she rubbed them around in a plate of flour) the pieces with salted and peppered flour, and gently placed each one in a cast iron frying pan crackling with grease so they fit together in the pan. I watched as she took a fork and turned each piece in the pan with one hand, the other hand placed firmly on her hip, so the pieces browned evenly to a tasty crisp on both sides. After each had cooked she then dropped them one by one on a brown paper bag on a plate to drain.
Well, today I use an obscene amount of paper towels to drain my fried chicken, but that was pretty much my indoctrination to cooking. I noted my mother primarily used Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking, so when I married I bought a copy of this ponderous tome for my own efforts. After a while I got pretty good, mainly realizing you can’t go off for too long from something on the stove without it burning, so I had to stop combining vacuuming or whatever with cooking. Not only did I get fairly good, but I began to really enjoy it. I loved trying new dishes on friends and family, and a huge cocktail party was thrilling, with the array of sumptuous hors d’oeuvre I could assemble. As my son grew up and I was a single, working mom I learned to cook and freeze and casseroles became my new best friends. I could easily drop frozen green beans in to boil while I zapped a container of stew or spaghetti. Desserts were easy. There was always a special on ice cream or Pepperidge Farm cakes and, with a coupon it was a bargain.
Now cooking is a challenge. Who makes spaghetti or tetrazzini or stroganoff for one?? But as I get older I also am more careful about what I eat. So it’s lighter foods, more fruits, vegetables, and I can still freeze stuff- a lentil, barley, wild rice dish is a favorite of mine and if I add chicken it’s pretty hearty.
Desserts are harder to manage though. Too tempting to bake a whole pound cake and try not to eat it all.