Thursday, April 7, 2011

You make souffle sound like no big deal.

This is my new favorite website: Cooking For Engineers.

I love the way they break it down, the fact that every step includes pictures, and that they make their recipes conversational, the way I would get them from my dad, if he was patient enough to actually tell me how to make anything instead of just grumbling when I don't get it right.

You would like that having a Culinary Institute trained chef as a father would mean that I have the knowledge of how to cook deep in my bones. But that's not the case - I'm basically self-taught. I learned how to chop things, and stir pots, and do dishes, but that's about it. By the time I was old enough to really learn, my dad had quit the restaurant business and was working as a handyman. I learned to lay tile, nail shingles, and paint walls. My dad only ever cooked on special occasions. My mom taught me most of the basic kitchen stuff, like how to boil water.

But once I reached an age where they considered me old enough to operate the stove myself, there was an attitude of DIY that pervaded the food culture of my house. We didn't eat out very often and the idea was that there were always enough ingredients in the pantry for us to figure out something. My cooking skills evolved slowly and out of necessity. I found beginner's recipe books in the library and read them until I understood enough to access the ones mouldering in the basement.

I mean, sure, I got lazy and ate a lot of tuna salad, but my tuna salad spiraled out in crazy directions - I went through my curry phase, and my mirepoix phase, and my balsamic vinegar phase - god, the balsamic vinegar phase. I wouldn't be surprised if I still reeked of the stuff sometimes, years later.

But I've always, really, truly wanted to learn how to cook, from someone who really knows. And those are the days when I look over at my dad, and sigh, and go back to watching the Food Network.

And next time I go home for the weekend, I'll help my mom make dinner, and learn something new that will make her widen her eyes and say, "You didn't know how to do that?"

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