A Blossoming Chef

By Nicole Moyer

The Root

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When I was young in no way would I ever have considered myself a good cook. Quite honestly even today I sometimes find words like boil, fry, and roast frightening. Back then I had little to no experience in the kitchen. When it came to preparing food salads and sandwiches were my go to meals. The only time I actually enjoyed cooking, I found, was when I was alone. The loitering eyes of friends and family, while grasping a mixing bowl in one hand and spoon in the other were overwhelmingly judgmental. This has no doubt derived from my childhood experiences with cooking, or lack thereof. My mom being the spastic neat freak that she is, cringes at the thought of a messy kitchen. She is my culinary root of evil. To her the sight of even the tiniest crumb hitting the floor causes a chain reaction of rants and a series of grumbles and groans. And God forbid I ever wanted to use the oven, because I’d most likely burn the house to the ground, so that was completely out of the question.

Planting the Seed

It is mostly because of this that I have little to no interest in cuisine. I did however find sanctuary in cooking with my grandmother. Her patience and willingness to teach was something I will always admire. Cooking at grandmas was my escape from the critical watch of my mother. She is the one who introduced me to the wonders of preparing your own meals. In turn she essentially planted a whole new idea into my mind, cooking can be fun. In the blissfully rare moments when I could confidently use a paring knife or peel a potato without negative spectacle, I enjoyed cooking my own food. My grandmother is not only a wonderful teacher but an equally phenomenal cook. It is her home in which my entire family gathered on holidays and birthdays. The entirety of the house on these occasions was filled with the aromas of delicious foods. Foods of every color, shape, size, and smell. These are times I now hold special to me and memories I will never forget. Being part of such a festivity and providing a perfectly prepared meal for an entire family is something I want for myself. This is why I took each cooking lesson with grandma so seriously.

The Stem of it All

Another admiration I have of my grandmother is that her cooking stems from her Dutch heritage. Her infamous potato soup and shoe fly pie are too die for. Among the array of cultural cuisine I learned to prepare was the Pennsylvania Dutch corn pie. I know how it sounds. Not great. Which is how I felt when walking into Wegmans food market to collect its ingredients. I was less than thrilled to be making such a boring and bland sounding food. But nevertheless I am always willing to try.

Once in the market we moseyed around grabbing the required items to make the corn pie from the shelves:

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1 Potato (peeled then chopped) optional*
1 Can whole kettle corn (drained)
1 Can cream corn
3 Large white eggs (boiled)
Salt, Pepper, Sugar (a pinch)
Whole milk (1/2 cup)
Salted butter (1 Tbsp. melted)
Pie crust (1 package)
Pie pan

 

Having never made a pie before I didn’t know what to expect. My grandmother insisted on making the crust of the pie from scratch. Being more comfortable with baking this was, for me, exciting and new. I’m not sure was it is about kneading your hands in bowl of freshly made dough that is so satisfying, but whatever the answer I, to this day, find it delightful. There’s something so primitive about mixing food with your hands that really makes you appreciate it.

Nourishing the Bud

After making the pie crust, we sliced up three hard boiled eggs, and peeled then chopped the potatoes. Now we were ready to put it all together. I grabbed the lime green plastic mixing bowl out of the cabinet, and threw in the following: the potatoes, the drained can of kettle corn, a can of creamed corn, the milk, and melted butter. I vigorously mixed this until satisfied with the unified result. I then added some salt, pepper, and sugar to the mix. If I learned anything from cooking with my grandmother, it was how to eyeball a measurement. She never, and I mean never, used measuring tools. This did not appeal to me in the same way as she had hoped. I enjoy exact measurements, but to this day if I need to, I can guesstimate how much of what will be enough. I would now like to take a second and give a special shout out to grandma for being the only one to nurture my malnourished cooking talent…THANK YOU. Anyway, after mixing the batch again, it was time to pour the mixed ingredients into the pie crust, which I had previously been placed into a pie tin. Now to add the hard boiled eggs. I took the fragile thinly sliced pieces and placed them ever so elegantly around the perimeter of the pie, then filled in the center with any that remained. With the oven preheated to 350 degrees, for thirty minutes, we waited.

In Full Bloom  

To this day I prefer to cook alone. My grandmother is the only person, besides myself, I feel completely comfortable cooking around. It is thanks to her that I have branched out on my own and begun experimenting with other recipes. I have cooked an assortment of foods from chicken dishes, to fish fillets, and even took a stab at pasta faggioli. Now that I am older I no longer care much about the disapproving judgements of others while I cook. I have blossomed from this person who was afraid to drain noodles, into someone willing to try a new recipe. I learned that cooking can be a fun and rewarding hobby. I will never forget the taste of the first corn pie I ever made. It was delicious and even better because I made it. I remember thinking it was so creamy and delicious, as I scrapped the bowl for any remaining crumbs.

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I continue to view my experience making corn pie as the push I needed to be comfortable making food on my own. Shortly after the success of the first, I tried making a corn pie again, this time for my mother. I wanted to show off my newly learned skills. Unfortunately, I ended up putting too much butter in the pie and it over flowed, causing a small oven fire, but it tasted good. Since then my cooking skills have definitely improved. In the end I am still not completely confident in my cooking but I enjoy it more than I did. I even found a degree of delight in using the oven and amazingly managed not to burn down the house.

Image source: Google Images

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This entry was posted in Food Essays Spring 2016, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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