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Zoethe

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Learning to cook [Dec. 5th, 2011|10:45 am]
Zoethe
(Apparently cross-posting from Dreamwidth failed me twice. So now you get a spew of cooking talk from me!)

"I don’t know how to cook, Mom!" My daughter moaned over the phone. Now, I know that this isn’t strictly true. Over the years I have coached her through a number of dishes that she can now make on command. She has been feeding herself for years.

But her menus are limited to "the stuff Mom talked me through" and "I chop up some veggies and chicken, and...then what? Well, stir fry again, I guess!" It’s compounded by her lack of ingredients in the kitchen, so that the only thing that she can cook is the same things over and over again.

So we talked about how to get past that. I suggested that she figure out 5 or 10 dishes that she really likes and would like to be able to cook, and to then find recipes for those dishes and learn to make them. And I told her that she should always have onions and garlic on hand, because they are the building blocks for a wide variety of dishes. I also reassured her that when I was her age, I didn’t know that much about cooking and that she has plenty of time to learn.

I remember cooking at 25. I was just recently married, and a lot of my dishes consisted of things that started with cream of mushroom soup in a can. I was scarred by the disgrace of having interpreted "fruit salad" as the canned-fruit-and-Cool-Whip version of my childhood, my bowl of pale, diced fruit a sharp contrast to the fresh fruits and veggies at a potluck -- a mistake I’ve never made again! I didn’t know you could do anything with vegetables besides boil them, and what was the point of spending all that extra money on fresh when frozen or canned were so much cheaper? But people were definitely starting to do things with food that were different than what I grew up with, and I was interested.

This was the 80s, and the revolution in food was just starting to reach the hinterlands. Our idea of fine dining in my teens was the German place where we ate fondue and wiener schnitzel and thought it was elegant. Vegetables were a sort of garnish that remained untouched on the average diner’s plate. We were just learning of the existence of sushi, and it sounded disgusting.

Much has changed in the years since then.

I was a relatively slow adopter of these new ideas about food, and I was continually intimidated by the food I was eating at other people’s houses. It motivated me, though, and I started trying new things, reading cookbooks, and generally playing with my food. There were definitely disasters along the way, but things slowly improved. I stopped relying on cream of mushroom soup, for one thing.

Erin is starting from a different baseline, one built on the foods she grew up with, so there is no cream of mushroom soup in her cooking vocabulary. I’m confident that she will eventually develop the building blocks of cooking, when she’s genuinely interested enough to make it happen. In the meantime, stir fry isn’t tragic.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2011-12-05 03:57 pm (UTC)
I was at the 'buy jar of sauce and random meats and heat it up in a wok' stage of cooking until I moved to the US, and there were all these things I missed and couldn't easily get, like curry and Cornish pasties (I was living in Lansing, which is a bit less cosmopolitan than Ann Arbor). I pretty much had to learn to cook properly if I wanted half my favourite foods, so I did. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-05 06:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, lack of access is definitely a motivating factor!
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-12-05 05:27 pm (UTC)
there is no cream of mushroom soup in her cooking vocabulary

*blinks* Wow. That was one of my staples at uni. Once tired of ramen or rice and soy sauce I'd pull out a cheap can and have cream of over rice. I would not have been able to live without it. I do agree that it's not the best of foodstuffs, but it's very simple to use.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-05 06:22 pm (UTC)
College eating is best not spoken of, really....
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-12-05 07:18 pm (UTC)
It was not the most nutritious time of my life, but creativity with things like Taco Bell hot sauce soared. Erm. As you say, best not spoken of.
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[User Picture]From: roomette
2011-12-05 08:11 pm (UTC)
For Christmas one year my mom gave me a list of ingredients to keep a stocked kitchen and a box with cards in it that had recipes that could be made from those ingredients. I know this doesn't quite address what Erin needs/wants but I did love it as knowing the bases for certain things allowed expansion. For some of them she'd hint at other dishes to be made from those items. i.e. I could make scrambled eggs with tons of veggies. Or with the addition of bisquick I could make a crustless quiche. The spaghetti sauce base came with a an additional recipe for pizza dough, etc.

It was a lot of fun!
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-12-05 10:15 pm (UTC)
i'd be lost without bisquick!
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[User Picture]From: roomette
2011-12-06 02:12 am (UTC)
I know! It is the simplest thing but we use it for a lot in our tiny household. Peach cobbler is the main breakfast item right now...
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-12-06 02:26 am (UTC)
my mother in law got me a big fat bisquick cookbook a few years ago for christmas. you should look for one!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-05 10:57 pm (UTC)
That's a great gift! I have to work on the "stocked up" list. Erin would appreciate it.
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[User Picture]From: jume
2011-12-06 03:55 am (UTC)
As a young 20-something, I know one of my biggest hurdles is "thinking of stuff to make"

but, once I do think of something, I don't let silly things like not having the right ingredients get in the way! (Having roommates helps with that a lot though. Some of their sour cream got appropriated tonight for mashed potatoes ;D)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 04:33 am (UTC)
I need to do a blog entry about the things to keep in the kitchen.
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[User Picture]From: miripanda
2011-12-06 03:56 am (UTC)
One of the gifts my aunt gave me when I went to college was a "Four Ingredient Cookbook" that yes, featured a lot of the cream of mushroom soup variety of recipes, but also gave me a confidence boost because four ingredients! How wrong could it go?!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 04:35 am (UTC)
It's definitely a place to start. Confidence is a huge asset!
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[User Picture]From: midnightsjane
2011-12-06 05:33 am (UTC)
I learned to cook by reading recipes. I did know the basics when I left home, but the best thing I did was buy a copy of Joy Of Cooking, which led me to other recipe books. Once I mastered some of the simpler dishes, I got the courage to try to interpret them in my own way. Over the years I've become quite adventurous..and cooking has become one of my great pleasures. I think every young person should have at least a basic grasp on cooking decent meals when they leave home, so good for Erin for trying!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 12:30 pm (UTC)
I've never managed to own a copy of Joy of Cooking.
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[User Picture]From: daemonnoire
2011-12-06 10:09 pm (UTC)
If you go looking for one to pick up, look for a '63, '64, or '75 edition. The '97 edition is rubbish, though apparently the 75th anniversary edition ('06) has a lot of the stuff that the '97 edition lacks.

Alternately, there's always the Cooks Illustrated recipe book, which puts a lot of thought into the science of what makes a recipe work.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 10:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, we have a LOT of CI recipe books, including that one. We love Cook's Illustrated.
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[User Picture]From: daemonnoire
2011-12-06 10:24 pm (UTC)
And thanks to this conversation, I have sent a link to my dear hubby reminding him that recipe books just like that one count as "paper" for a first anniversary gift.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 10:43 pm (UTC)
Great idea!
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