Monday, November 30, 2015

Cooking 101

Hi friends.

I trust you have enjoyed a lovely holiday. I am certain you spent a little bit of time with friends and family, maybe did a little shopping, napping, decorating, perhaps?

I did a lot of all, sans the napping, because what one year old set of twins wants their mama to NAP??

Anyway, in my quest for always informing you all about 1) my thoughts on life and 2) food and agriculture, I would like to take you on a little voyage. An educational pilgrimage, if you will, and it will be known as Cooking 101.

My friends. I have not always been a cook. As a single gal, I considered "tacos" (a shell and some cheese) and cereal as meals. I was the girl with the two frozen pizzas, a bottle of Moscato, and some bananas, like the one behind me at the grocery store the Friday before Thanksgiving. As I hauled my cereal boxes, produce out the wazoo, loaves of bread and gallons of milk, I looked longingly at her little basket full of "essentials," wondering if I could pull that memory out of the back of my mind.

Good times.

However on this same evening, I was in the shoe department on my quest for the perfect black shootie (yes, that's a word). As I stood at the register happily purchasing my new kicks, I heard the clerks discussing Thanksgiving.

It was a little like this:
Clerk A, "I don't know how to do it. My mom just does it."
Clerk B, "Does it take ALL DAY?"
Clerk A, "I don't know, but wouldn't it break your oven?"
Clerk B, "I'm not sure. I have only baked frozen pizza."


I couldn't stand it. Feeling high and successful because of my shootie purchase, I chimed in:

Emily, "Are you two talking about turkey?

I'll spare you the detailed dialogue, but yes, they were discussing turkey baking, and in my short interjection, I was able to hear that neither of these women, one in her 20s, the other 40ish, had ever used their ovens for anything other than a frozen fill-in-the-blank.

Never had it up past 400 degrees.
Never had it on for more than 30 minutes.

I asked them if they ever did a roast or anything like that, and they had never heard of a roast.


These women had helped me find the perfect shootie, and yet they didn't know the glories of a roast cooked all day in a Dutch Oven!???

Again, bless.

I left them, offering cooking classes in jest, and just shook my head.

Friends, this is a crisis. These are the people we need to share our knowledge with. These ladies need to understand the budget friendly meals that are pork roast, roast beef that will stretch for days, and turkey.

Friends, the "processed food crisis" is real, and it's not because of the marketing or the placement or whatever. It's because of the convenience. The not knowing when it comes to cooking.

So, this weekend, I did some research...

I watched Food Network and read Better Homes and Garden.

Here's the problem. All of you folks who claim that cooking it "too hard," or "too time consuming," or "too messy" need a Janet.

That's my mom.

Put down the Better Homes and Garden. Look away from Giada, Rachael, Guy, and Bobby. Your cooking does not have to be fancy to be delicious. You just need to understand the basics:

Mama Janet enlightened me on these basic principals in the past 12ish years I have been the primary cooker:

1) Your oven can operate all day without burning your house down.
2) There are essential spices, oils, canned goods, etc. that you need in your arsenal.
3) Don't be afraid.

Cooking is all about experimentation. Now, while I did not make the Thanksgiving dinner (thank you Jessica and Jeremy and Heather), I could have. I'm not a rocket scientist, but there are things that are tried and true and just take time and patience.

Cooking is one of them.

While a whole turkey is generally a once a year thing, roast beef and pork and potatoes baked in the oven or mashed are things we have quite often around here.

And it's not because I'm gourmet.

It's because it's easy to sear a roast, season it, and let it simmer in the SAME POT all day. When I pull it out at 6:00, it falls off the bone. Now, I know we're spoiled with good beef, but I will tell you, you can find it, you just have to look.

I know, I know. Time is of the essence.

Do you remember I have six kids?

I have no time, and there are days we have corn dogs, take out BBQ and cereal still (those nights are lovingly called "randoms."), however, I cook most days. Nothing too crazy, but I have my recipe box that my grandma gave me in the fourth grade and the list of "quickie meals" my mom swears by.

There are times we venture out of our comfort zone, and it flops. There are times that our family gets in a rut, but my cooking has evolved as I have been the primary food prepper at our house. I think that's because I have learned to not take my cooking too seriously. I have learned that with good meat, veggies and fruit, you can have a meal that will satisfy. You don't need crazy ingredients all the time. You don't need to freak out. This is food, and because I have a first grader, I know that food is one of our "basic needs." Thank you, social studies.

We have decided that food has to be an event. All the time.

That's a lot of pressure, folks.

I have gone the opposite way. While there are times that I revel in my culinary prowess, nine meals out of ten, we just eat them. No fanfare. No worries. Just dinner.

I have never been one to be a crazy foodie, so if I offend all you food picture takers, I'm sorry. I'm an eater out of bodily necessity and a cook out of family role. The end. I think the trend to have this beautiful meal that goes on Instagram the minute you plate it is ridiculous. Friends, can't we just eat our food, and not have to worry about it getting its accessories right? I guess it's hard enough for me to be showered and ready, why should I worry that my pork chops are perfectly Pinterest placed on the plate. Good food is easy to enjoy without worrying about making it camera ready.

So, as you slip out of your turkey coma and into the holiday season, enjoy some time spent whipping up a favorite recipe from your childhood. Or, if you don't have one, send me an email, and I'll send you some of mine.

Again, I'm not fancy, but I do understand the importance and brevity that is an oven.

And a good shootie.


  1. Oh Bless! I was nodding my head right along with this post and then got to "pork chops are perfectly Pinterest placed on the plate"... What an alliteration! We grow a big garden and can a lot of the goodies for over the winter and I get a lot of stares as a 31 year old (and her husband) that know and like to preserve food 'like Grandma use to'. It's fun! Really! I enjoy trying new recipes for things like Orange Rhubarb Butter, Apple Pie Jelly or Bruschetta Style Salsa. And it does make me feel more connect with a lost 'art'!

  2. You never disappoint! I could not agree more! Thank you!

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