The Journey of Cooking

For as long as I can remember, I have been a horrible cook. It was so bad, that my parents refused to let me anywhere near the oven. The only way I was aloud to make food was if it was microwaveable. However, I always had a passion for cooking. I wanted to be able to create something that my friends and family could enjoy. I’ve always loved watching food shows. I remember being jealous, while watching the chefs produce amazing and delicious looking meals. The way food is prepared has always intrigued me. When I would watch the chefs, on TV, start preparing their food, I would be instantly entranced by it.

One time when I was, about, 12 years old, my friend, who was also my neighbor, and I, wanted to make Mac and Cheese. Kimmi, was not only my neighbor, she was my partner in crime. Living next door to her was probably the reason why we always got in trouble, but it was also why I had such a fun childhood. As usual with our schemes, I can’t remember who’s idea it was originally. However, I remember boiling a pot of water at my house, then trying to carefully run holding the pot full of water, so I wouldn’t spill any, across the yard to her house. When our parents asked us why we thought that a pot of water would boil at my house faster, we simply shrugged and said, “We don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” To this day, years later, when it still gets brought up at family dinners, I roll my eyes and accept the fact that I’ll never live that moment down.

So, ever since then, I stayed away from cooking for a while; until I was 16 years old, and I decided to try and bake cookies. I remember being very nervous. It was summertime and my parents were at work and my sister, who is five years older than me,  was hanging out with her friends. I knew I should have probably waited for someone to be home, but I thought “what’s the worst that can happen?” Yep. Famous last words. It shouldn’t have been such a disaster, I mean the cookies were already packaged, all I had to do was place them in the oven and BAM! I had baked cookies. However, nothing in my life ever plays out so simply.

After eating half the cookie dough, I placed the rest of the chocolate chip cookies on a Pam covered baking sheet. I still didn’t understand why I had to preheat an oven, so after I placed the baking sheet of cookies in the oven, I successfully turned it on the correct heat, and waited for 20-25 minutes. When I opened the oven to check on them, and saw that they were a beautiful golden brown, I turned the oven off and picked up a small blue and white checkered towel. Since, most people have these kinds of towels in their kitchens, usually hanging on the stove, I thought that they were what you used to take stuff out of the oven. So, instead of using a proper oven mitt for taking hot stuff out of the oven, I used a small thin cotton towel, and didn’t think twice. As I’m placing the cooking sheet on top of the stove, I realize with a shriek that my, beautiful blue and white, towel is on fire. I panicked and had a couple seconds of “what the hell do I do?!” before I opened the door and threw it on my driveway. Obviously, it’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I raced around my kitchen to get a cup of water, to help put out the fire. The same exact occurrence happened a year later.

It’s no shock that my parents were extremely worried about me trying to cook when they weren’t home, considering those experiences. I would be the same way if it was my child, so I stopped cooking for a couple more years until I wanted to give it another go. This time I was a sophomore at Kutztown University. Yes, it is embarrassing that I’m old enough to be in college, yet I can’t even use an oven! I can’t be the only one, so that makes me feel better. So, this time I tried to cook chicken for the first time. Que the horror music. My roommate, Nikoal, went off to her night class so I thought I’d give it a whirl, thinking it would be easy. You’d think I would have learned by now that cooking and me should never be in the same sentence as the word easy. Anyways, I actually preheated the oven this time then took the chicken from the fridge and placed it on a baking sheet into the oven. For those who know how to cook, I am sure you are cringing from the fact that I never defrosted the chicken; I’m cringing just remember this entire night.

After a while I deemed the chicken done and took it out of the oven and placed it on a plate. I grabbed my plate and a cup of water and sat down in front of the TV and started eating. When I was about halfway done my chicken I looked down and saw pink. I remember thinking to myself, “I should probably not eat this, but it can’t be that bad since it’s not too pink. I mean stake can be pink, so it can’t be that horrible.” Boy, was I wrong.  Thankfully I stopped eating it anyways and started doing homework. A half an hour later I started to feel sick. I’m not going to go into gruesome detail, I’m sure you all know what the outcome was. After that horrible night, I decided that I needed a “cooking” intervention. Now I’m all for “at first you don’t succeed, try again,” but lately I’m more of the, “if I almost die from my cooking, I better ask my mother for help.” So, when I went home that weekend, I decided to go to my mother for help.

I thought of these weekends as “mother and daughter: a journey to safe cooking,” emphasis of the safe part. The first weekend of our journey began with cooking breakfast. “Were going to start with the basics. Lets ease our way into this” she said. She grabbed a white glass bowl and placed it on our countertop and told me to take out the carton of eggs. “Be careful when cracking the egg; you don’t want parts of the shell in your scrambled eggs” she advised. I watched her gently pick up the egg, and with both of her hands, she lightly tapped it against the top of the bowl. “I would have thought that you could crack an egg with only one hand considering your many, and I mean many, years of cooking” I teased. She rolled her eyes, “HA! At least I could cook at your age without almost dying or burning the house down,” she fired back. After cracking two more eggs into the same bowl, she handed me a weird utensil with a metal handle at one end, and what looked like, bent wires on the other end. I was flabbergasted. Of course my response to such monstrosity was to shriek, “what in the world is that?!” She sighed, the sigh that I have heard many times in my life and told me to, “use my indoor voice” because she was “right next to me, not a mile away.” I decided to inform her, in advance, that I would not be able to contain my outrage if she continued to pull out more weird creations. “Okay, I get it. It’s weird. You’ll survive,” she handed me the foreign object and said, “this is a whisk. You use it to scramble the eggs.” I hesitantly reached for the whisk and began stirring the eggs, or as my mother corrected me, “whisking” the eggs.

After the eggs were properly whisked, we decided to try something new, and sprinkled crushed red cayenne peppers into the bowl; then we added a little bit of salt and pepper. My mom went into the bottom cabinet and pulled out a medium sized skillet. She turned the burner on and cut off a sliver of butter and, with a knife, moved it around the skillet until the entire bottom was covered with a sheen of melted butter. She nudged me and told me to pour the eggs into the skillet. “Now, the way to go about making scrambled eggs, is to keep moving and slightly flipping the eggs so it doesn’t burn. However, you also need to make sure that you cook them long enough. If you don’t the eggs will be a gross mushy mess. After a little bit, she told me to turn off the burner and to use the spatchula to push the eggs onto the plates. After squeezing ketchup on our plates and grabbing our glasses of milk, we sat down at our dining room table and enjoyed our first conjoint made meal.

After our scrambled eggs weekend, we move onto other breakfast meals. When we finished basic, and some more complex, breakfast foods, we moved on to basic lunch, dinner, and desert foods. Now, it’s more than just learning how to cook; it’s a way me and my mom make time for each other to talk and bond. Cooking and the weekends have become more special to me, in a way I never thought it could be.

I’m still learning, and even though I still make mistakes, it doesn’t discourage me from continuing on my journey of cooking. I like the feeling that I’m able to create something that people can enjoy. Food is a way to bring people together, and being a part of creating that, makes me enjoy cooking that much more. Cooking for me is a challenge, but that’s another perk I love about it. It’s the simple things in life that make you realize what you care about and who you are; cooking, to me, is one of these simple things that help me realize that hard work pays off, but don’t forget that work can be fun. The lesson I have learned from my experiences is that, you shouldn’t give up no matter what. Even if you make mistakes, or are not that good at something, you should still try again and again; if it’s something that makes you happy, then it’s worth it.

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