I love to cook! I have been cooking as long as I can remember and have made so many different things there is no way to catalog all of it. The kitchen is my playground, my laboratory, my happy place, my creative space. When I was very young, I remember sitting in our big chair with my mom’s cookbooks imagining myself making the recipes inside. I remember attempting a strawberry cake with a marshmallow frosting. I remember reading it over and over and wondering what it would taste like. I eventually attempted to make it. I remember my mom serving the cake to us after dinner that night and it tasted awful. It was so dry and didn’t have a great flavor. There wasn’t enough frosting to counter the thick dry cake. It was a total fail! But that never stopped me. I kept reading recipes and trying new things.
After I got married, a friend at work told me about Bon Apetit magazine. I bought a subscription and told my husband I wanted to make something special from the magazine that I had been reading. This was around 1989, I made a fettucine with a gorgonzola sauce topped with a mixture of toasted nuts (hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts i think) I also made a grilled shrimp with spicy gazpacho cream sauce. This recipe had me peeling and coring tomatoes for the first time, doing things I had never done before and using ingredients I never used before. I loved it! I had imagined these recipes for days. The result was amazing! My husband loved it! I remember his reaction, “This is better than a restaurant! That subscription to Bon Apetit was the best investment I ever made!”
Around the same time, maybe 1990, I joined a group of four women from work who would try new recipes every month or so on a Thursday night as we took turns hosting at each of our houses. Each of us would find a recipe we never tried before that we wanted to attempt. Something brave, delicious and interesting! We would buy our ingredients, bring them to work storing them in the office refrigerator and caravan to the host house after work. After we arrived the host would open her kitchen to us five amateur cooks as we proceeded to make a monumental mess in the kitchen resulting in a glorious meal for everyone! We could freely critique the recipes since they were all experimental. We weren’t making any sacred family recipes. It was all in the pursuit of learning how to cook and enjoying great tasting food. Twenty five years later this group is still going. We are down to three and the frequency of the “Cooking Club” as we call it has become more like one hosting per person per year. We have talked about keeping a record of what we make but never have. It would be an awesome compilation of recipes over the years. We have made some amazing things!
My first daughter was born at the end of 1991. Three more children followed with the last in 2001. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home with them. It is interesting when people bring up traditions with my children and ask them what our special family traditional foods are. This would always stump each of them and me, too. I was constantly cooking but never really repeating anything too much. I never had the family go-to recipe that everyone remembers. I would pass through phases. Each of my children has different memories of different foods from different phases. I have one daughter who cringes at the thought of bolognese sauce. I love a good bolognese sauce! I must have been trying to perfect it when she was young and made a little too much of it. I just wanted to get the recipe just the way I like it! I don’t even think I have made the sauce for my youngest son. Something I should resurrect! There have been canning phases (pomegranate jelly and garlic relish), gardening fresh herbs and vegetables, strawberries, boysenberries, tomatoes and banana tree phases, homemade pizza phases (the memory of my shrimp scampi pizza still rolls into my mind every so often), pasta phases back in the 90s when I just had to recreate the Cheesecake Factory’s linguine with chicken, vegetables and peanut sauce and Macaroni Grill’s bowtie chicken pasta with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes in the garlic cream sauce, there was a pasta primavera phase that I mastered. That was a glorious dish full the amazing fresh flavorful veggies and lots of basil infused into the cream sauce. There were swedish meatball phases, ebelskiver phases, ravioli phases, potsticker phases, chopped salad phases, eggroll phases, taco phases, hamburger phases, fish phases, healthy food phases, candy phases, cheesecake phases, egg phases when we had chickens for a year. The phases never stop. Food exploration never ceases with me. The world is full of too many interesting combinations of flavor. Since we need to eat everyday there is always to new day to create something new. The best part is that I can be creative without having a garage full of old projects. The sad part is that there aren’t any artifacts left except memories and recipes.
I may not have anything tangible to document everything I ever made, but going forward I want to capture as much as I can. So starting now….This is what I cook!