I was SO there. As a newlywed, I didn’t know how to cook ground beef. Cooking from scratch for me was spaghetti. (The kind with the Hunt’s spaghetti sauce.) Lasagna was especially complicated. (Again, the kind with the Hunt’s spaghetti sauce.) Our meals were frozen pizza and corn dogs.
I had a good cookbook, but pretty much only use it for cookies.
Then I got bored with chocolate chip cookies, began the process of expanding my baking horizons. I moved on to sugar cookies. Then snickerdoodles. And then, the creme de la creme of my baking experience thus far… buried cherry cookies.
It was probably four years after I got that cookbook that I realized it had chapters beyond the cookie chapter.
And that change came because I was staying at home, with only one income as opposed to two. I was searching for cheaper recipes. Also, a mother now, I was in the midst of an eye-opening food revelation. (Do you REALIZE how much salt is in frozen pizza?! And don’t get me started on CORN DOGS.) I was beginning the Natural Mommy transformation. I wanted whole foods. Wheat flour. Butter, not margerine. Vegetables.
As I tried new recipes, it was ALWAYS with fear and trepidation. As I said, we did not have much money. The last thing I wanted to do was waste an entire dinner because it a) burned to a crisp in the oven, b) was botched by an inexperienced chef trying to ad-lib, or c) was really a horribly tasting, or even bland-tasting meal, even though the picture in the cookbook made it look scrumptious.
I followed every new recipe to a ‘T’. I leveled measuring cups and teaspoons alike. Oh, who am I kidding? I still do! I cooked with one eye on my food and one eye memorizing the recipe for fear I would skip a step.
Cooking from scratch was my goal, but it intimidated me!
And when you are intimidated, you have two options.
- You can turn right back around and kiss the secure ground you came from. Never ever get back on the scary boat called Change.
- Embrace the fact that you will make messes. You will burn dinner. You will undercook meals. Especially the first time you make them. But you just keep trying! (Motivation to complete this step may, in part, be brought to you by my daughter’s potty training efforts.)
And you know what? Looking back on that stage of fearful abandonment? It was a rather short phase. (Of course, there was that rather lengthy stage of “I’m not deviating from the recipe; I’m not trying anything new. You can’t make me.”)
The more I cooked, the more I learned what food was supposed to look like. I noticed patterns in recipes. Like that thyme, basil, and sage are all used with chicken, but never all at the same time. And that cakes ARE NOT DONE, even if the toothpick comes out clean, if the top still resembles a dome. That dome will sink down and you will be left with an embarrassment of a German Chocolate Cake. (See? Still learning.)
And I learned what food was supposed to taste like. Why, just tonight, I tried a new meal. And it was not good. But instead of throwing out the recipe, I drew from my experience and, suddenly, I became that freak who throws a dash of this with a smidge of that and somehow creates something that tastes good! (Josh compared me to Remy from Ratatouille.)
(And, for your information, it was an incredibly bland chicken casserole. The only spice included on the recipe was pepper! But because I had a bank of information, I knew that garlic salt and lemon pepper go excellently with chicken. Dinner was saved. Next time, maybe I’ll add some carrots and celery, and replace the lemon pepper with sage, who know?! The possibilities are endless!)
And so I end on this point. Get. In. The. Kitchen.
Get a good teaching cookbook (Church cookbooks are nice, but they don’t exactly teach you what you need to know.) I highly recommend Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. From scrambled eggs to creme brulee, they’ve got it all, and make it all very doable.
Save money, eat healthy, feel competent. Cook!
Does cooking from scratch intimidate you? Did it? What got you over it; and how long did it take?
Filed under: The Cooking on January 31st, 2008