I adore cooking. I love the prep; getting the kitchen ready, browsing recipes, even the food shopping before hand. I love spending time in my kitchen. I love how it gets warm and ends up being a hub of the household. I love sharing the kitchen with friends and loved ones. It's comforting for me to be in there. One of my favourite pasttimes is sitting at the table with a friend, sipping tea and nibbling on sweets and talking about food and recipes. Food is amazing. We all have such intriguing ties to food. Food motivates, comforts, and succours us. On the flip side food can make us feel disgusting or ugly. The sensory perceptions related to certain foods are huge. I know if I smell a certain food it will trigger different memories and emotions. I also know I'm not alone with this.
One of my all-time favourite smells is cooking onions and garlic. It evokes memories of sitting at my Grandmother's knee while she would make the fricassee or the brisket or the chopped liver. My grandparents were the ones that started me cooking. My Grandfather made the best matzoh brei I've ever tasted, and my Grandmother cooked the most amazing things for the High Holidays. I spent every weekend with them from the time I was a toddler until I was 16. I learned how to make chopped liver, baked ziti, spinach pie, brisket, and just about everything else (except matzoh brei). My mom was no slouch in the kitchen either. While I couldn't stand her meatloaf, she taught me how to make the best chicken wings (baked) and how to cook large slabs of meat. Give me a roast, a leg of lamb, a steak, a chicken and I will make you a feast.
While I don't mind cooking for myself, cooking for friends and loved ones fills me with a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Between traveling, taking care of the Daikini Baby, and my ankle surgery I've not had a lot of time to cook, but lately I've started up again. In the past month I've baked bread and cookies from scratch (I'd never done that before), made homemade doughnuts and cheese fritters for Channukah, (also a first), scalloped potatoes and bacon, and concocted a recipe for leg of lamb from thin air and a bit of help from the Flavor Bible that turned out to be the best lamb I'd ever made. I was nervous making all these new things, but the feedback I got was fantastic.
- The bread (rolled oatmeal bread) was crusty but tender on the inside.
- The cookies (chocolate crack cookies) have had rave reviews from friends and students. I've even made some changes. I made a batch of rum flavoured cookies, and I've got almond flavoured dough in the fridge waiting to be baked.
- The scalloped potatoes and bacon was so delicious that two chefs from Ithaca who were raving about it were astounded when I'd told them I'd never made it before. One of them wanted the recipe for his restaurant.
- The doughnuts and fritters were hard to make as I'd never deep fried anything before, but they came out pretty darned tasty.
- The lamb turned out so well that I used the same ingredients on a large pork roast. Delish doesn't even begin to cover how good it was.
The amazing thing about this is that I'm terrified of baking. I learned good Jewish dishes for holidays, how to cook meat, and things like that. Baking has never been a forte for me. It's so precise... there's no margin of error... It's not conducive to my mental state! Still, I gave it a try and damn if those baked goods didn't turn our well. So well, in fact, that I'm looking at more baking. I know I need to have more confidence with my cooking. I know I can make tasty things, but making them with confidence somehow makes them taste better to me.
So if you're in Upstate NY, and want to chat about food drop me a line. We've got a well stocked tea cabinet, and I'm sure I could whip up a batch of cookies to share.