People who know me would say that I’m a very motivated and positive person. But when it comes to cooking, I’m not a confident cook. Nevertheless, I’m determined not to let that stop me.
I’m not sure when I came to actually enjoy cooking. I can honestly tell you that I probably cooked an actual dish for the first time my senior year in college and I don’t think it was anything to brag about. Some sort of casserole or box mix for sure. Then came the Peace Corps where I only had a small kerosene stove, soybean oil, and a limited number of pots and utensils. Nevertheless, that was the first time in my life where I was totally on my own as far as food went. Luckily the wonderful family downstairs invited me into their home and subsequently their family and fed me dinner quite often during the week. I could only repay them by helping to prepare the food and by purchasing exciting new fruits and vegetables from the market. I also taught my Appa (sister) to make spaghetti, macaroni and cheese (whenever I could afford the imported cheese), no-bake cookies, and even popcorn. It’s true; they had never seen corn pop from the kernel. They thought I was a magician!
Upon returning to the U.S., I took it upon myself to continue this whole “cooking” thing that I had started in Bangladesh. A 4-burner stovetop, oven, and a sink with a faucet of drinkable water seemed like a dream come true.
Fast forward to 2007 when Jen asked me to join the GDC (Gourmet Dinner Club). I’m not sure what made her think I was worthy to join these ranks, but I accepted the offer. I spilled red pepper all over my black dress at the first dinner, broke down emotionally over German Chocolate Cake, and even threw in the towel on the French challenge and picked up a platter from “Pardon my French” instead of cooking anything. The GDC also serves as a source of new vocabulary for me as I just learned a new term this past weekend: charcuterie.
I try to turn my less-than-confident cooking nature into a “quirky” bit and I just cross my fingers that others find it somewhat cute and endearing. Unfortunately, I think people are starting to catch on. Perhaps my numerous questions are the give away. I’m just not a confident cook. Here are some examples of real questions I have asked my more culinarily (I made this word up) endowed friends and relatives:
-What’s the difference between regular and quick oats? And which ones work in no-bake cookies?
-Why are red lentils called “red lentils” when they are in fact orange?
-Can I defrost something without pushing the defrost button on the microwave?
-How long do I have after a piece of chicken has defrosted before I have to throw it away?
-Can I freeze jalapeños?
-How do people typically cook poultry in order to then add it to soup or a baked dish?
-Why is unsweetened coconut so damn hard to find in your basic grocery store?
There have been many more embarrassing questions, but I’ve succeeded in blocking them from my memory…until I need the answer again.
I can proudly say that I’ve come a long way. I know there are many more mistakes on the horizon, but with each mistake comes a new realization and of course the successes keep increasing. Watch out “Cook’s Illustrated,” cover model here I come!
Do you have ever have cooking questions that you feel like everyone else already knows the answers to? Are there certain meals or dishes that have intimidated you?