Recently my son was having an impromptu sleepover with a friend. I was not in the mood to cook, but suddenly I needed to feed two hungry boys. I really didn’t want to resort to ordering a pizza, so I opened up my freezer and saw stacks of containers filled with homemade chicken stock. From where I stood, the only logical things to do was to make chicken noodle soup. With a good stock to start with, all it needs is some noodles and a few freshly cut vegetables. Add a nice crusty garlic bread on the side and dinner is done. …
I am absolutely loving this new cooking project, but it makes me wish I had a huge extended family to feed. When I initially started this project, I thought I would spend two weeks cooking from a given culture, but there are just so many dishes to explore, I have decided to spend a month at each stop on the Culinary Stacation.
There are so many different food traditions in Sicily. I’ve experimented with a delicious Trapani style pesto made with almonds and heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Last night I made a sicilian style pizza topped with tomatoes, olives and capers. I can’t wait to try the same sauce with grilled chicken later this week.
If only my photography skills were more advanced, I never seem to take photos that are as mouthwatering as the food!
My husband just had a birthday this past weekend. He’s not real big on birthdays, but he loves to have his favorite foods on his special day. He always requests the same meal: lamb chops, potato gratin and apple pie. As this is his very favorite meal, I have a lot of experience making it. Unfortunately, this was not my best showing.
The grill caught on fire and charred the lamb while leaving the inside totally rare. I didn’t cook the potatoes long enough and they were totally al dente. The cauliflower dish which is normally fantastic went to the table too cool. The pie at least was fantastic! (I have never messed up a pie to date, I can almost make one in my sleep at this point.)
Doing something wrong….especially REALLY WRONG is an important part of the learning process. The only way to know what the boundaries are is take them too far, or not far enough. The only way to develop a sense of intuition in the kitchen is to allow yourself to fail. Estimate what teaspoon of salt looks like instead of using a teaspoon. Add a couple of splashes of vinegar instead of 2 teaspoons and taste it to see how it comes out. Make substitutions in your recipies. Ditch the kitchen timer sometimes and learn to tell when something is done by sight or feel. By letting go of your fear of failure you will learn to cook with your eyes, ears and nose instead of your recipes and measuring tools.
Thinking back to my husband’s birthday dinner. As dinner parties go, almost everything that could go wrong, did. However, once the fire in the grill was out…no one cared. I started with really good ingredients, and the meal was still tasty. We had a really fantastic evening with some friends that we love spending time with. It’s important to remember, that at the end of the day – that’s the whole point. We cook for the people we love, because we care about them and we want to sit down and share a meal together and connect.
Those of us who love food, tend to think about and experience food all the time. When we plan vacations, we plan around the sort of food experiences we want to have. When we look forward to the change of seasons, first and foremost are thoughts about what fruits and vegetables are in season and what kind of meals we want to prepare or enjoy. Our lives tend to revolve around the family table, celebrations and sharing our love for food with the ones we care about.
Most parents are excited about sharing their hopes, dreams and interests with their children. Sports fans can’t wait to get their kids excited about their favorite teams. Parents with artistic interests try to give their kids every opportunity to explore their creativity. Those of us with a more scientific focus want to show our kids the wonder of nature as well as technology and invention. Parents who are foodies want to instill a love of food and culture with their children. They want their kids to have a chance to experience the world the way they do. It’s a magnificent thing to be inspired and energized just by the process of shopping in the market.
The reality is, most kids are picky eaters on some level – at least in the beginning. What a child will or will not put in their mouth can become the ultimate power struggle. After all, as parents we control so much of what goes on in their lives, but we cannot force them to chew and swallow. At the same time, having a continual struggle at every mealtime is exhausting. The last thing a cook wants to receive after putting their love and time into a thoughtful meal is a disgusted look accompanied by, “What is in this?”.
It’s been a long time in the making, but at age 10 my son is finally a joy to cook for. He’s still a bit picky, but we can at least talk and relate to each other over the food. I used to be so envious when I would watch Rick Bayless cook with his daughter on TV. Their interactions always seemed very genuine. I am finally at the point with my own child, and it is absolutely fantastic. I am so glad I found the strength to push through the hard times, giving him his preferred foods some times, but expecting him to stretch himself and try new things as well.