For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with cooking. I remember at 8 years old, sitting in the kitchen, watching my mom pound steaks thin, dipping them in egg, dredging them in flour, and frying them to make my dad’s favorite supper. I remember being 5 years old and making homemade bread with my grandma, learning how to knead, let rise, and knead again. I remember being able to make homemade chicken and dumplings at 12 years old. I loved making up my own “recipes” – my first was when I was about 10, and was a carrot and celery soup. While it was not my shining moment, I was proud of my creation.
I’ve since improved.
Everything I know about cooking, I’ve learned from different sources. Whether it’s a cooking show, a family member, a friend, a website – it all fits together to create the cook I am now.
Whenever I am cooking, I can’t help but think about the people who taught me the various tasks I am performing. This Saturday, as I was making homemade buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, I measured the flour, scooping it out carefully. Next, I took a butter knife and tapped the sides of the measuring cup lightly, then skimmed the flat part of the knife across the top of the cup, making the flour smooth and level. My older sister taught me to do that one summer when I was visiting her and we were making cookies. She told me, “When you scoop out the flour, there will be air pockets in the measuring cup. When you’re baking, you have to be precise. Tap the sides of the measuring cup, and the flour will fall to fill the empty spaces. Then smooth the top.”
My granny taught me to cook scrambled eggs over a low heat. For years I scorched many a pan of scrambled eggs, thinking I just didn’t flip them around enough. “No,” she told me one day. “The secret is to cook them over a very low heat. Cook them slowly, and they will be perfectly cooked and fluffy.” Now I never make scrambled eggs without thinking about her.
I can’t use green onions without thinking about my dad, the best creole cook I know; he puts them in everything. I’ve learned so much from watching him cook. Butter goes with everything, so does white rice, and don’t be afraid to use heavy whipping cream instead of milk in your potato soup – it’s worth it.
Anytime we were “counting” anything, my grandma always added “one for the pot.” Hot dogs, cups of rice, it didn’t matter. “One for me, one for you, one for your dad [etc.] … and one for the pot.” I would imagine the pot coming to life during the meal and saying “Hey! That extra one was for me!” It never failed – somebody always ate The Pot’s hot dog. Sorry, Pot. Maybe next time.
This past Christmas, I made my very first apple pie from scratch. I have only accomplished a few things in my life, but right under the Top 2 (snagging the best man I’ve ever met, and graduating with a college degree) was my homemade apple pie. I proudly carried it into my inlaws’ house; you would have thought the thing was made of gold and diamonds, the way I was beaming over it.
It’s just that cooking… and baking… make me feel accomplished. Happy. Calm.
When I first saw the preview for Julie & Julia, I somehow missed the blogging aspect. But I did pick up on the fact that Meryl Streep, one of the best actresses of all time, was playing a very famous chef who I remembered watching on PBS when I was a little girl. Don’t ask me what a little girl was doing watching cooking shows on PBS – Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet, and Justin Wilson were my favorites – but I would watch, mesmerized, as they chopped, minced, broiled, and baked. Immediately I thought, “I have to see that movie!” After doing a little research, I discovered that, not only was the movie about cooking, but BLOGGING TOO. Oh man. This was just too good!
I don’t want to write a movie synopsis. I’ve written enough book reports and movie reviews to last a lifetime, thank you very much. But I will tell you this – if you enjoy cooking, or blogging, or any combination of the two – GO SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW. I don’t care what you’re doing. I don’t care if you don’t have anyone to go with or your husband won’t go with you or you don’t like to go to the movies and you always wait until they come out on DVD. Find a theater, go to the matinee, beg, borrow, steal – whatever you have to do. It’s a great movie.
(Or you can wait until it comes out on DVD. No one is going to die if you wait – except you, of anticipation. It’s just THAT GOOD.)
I think my favorite part of the movie (besides, I don’t know, the COOKING, and the BLOGGING, and the AMAZING ACTING, and, ohmygosh, THE BUTTER), was when Amy Adams was SO EXCITED to get her first blog comment. I know exactly how she feels. When you’re a blogger, you’re a drop in the bucket – until someone comments, and then suddenly, you feel like frigging Hemingway. Someone knows who you are! Someone likes your blog! You could conquer the world! I love that.
I also loved how, when she had a super long tedious tiring awful really terrible stressful day at work, she went into her kitchen to make a chocolate cream pie, and that is what soothed her. I have talked about this with friends and my husband before – cooking is my stress relief. All I need is some good music (lately it’s been Pandora Radio on my iPhone), a glass of something cold and refreshing, and my cast iron skillet, and the stress just melts away. I remember when I was in high school, sautéing mushrooms in butter, drinking a coke, listening to Norah Jones, and thinking, “I feel better.” Just last night, I got off work at 6pm, walked straight into my kitchen, and started cooking. It makes me happy. It calms me down. I am in control. I am creative. I make things that my husband and I can enjoy.
“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day where nothing is sure … you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.” -Julie Powell
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
For kicks, here’s the recipe for what I made last night.
Turkey & Spinach Quiche (this recipe was adapted from another recipe, “Sausage & Spinach Quiche,” which was written by a friend.)
-9 oz smoked sliced turkey breast (lunchmeat)
-6 green onions, sliced (slice 2 or 3 all the way up to the top, the rest of them only slice the white part)
-2 garlic cloves, minced (I “finely chop” because I hate garlic mincers; today I was out of fresh garlic so I used garlic powder, not as good of course but it worked in a pinch)
-1 bag of frozen spinach (I think mine was a 16 oz. bag) – fresh would also work, but this was so much easier. I thawed, rinsed, and squeezed all the excess water out of it
-2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese (I am sure any shredded cheese would work)
-9-inch pie shell, partially baked
-4 large eggs
-1-1/2 cups of half & half, whole milk, or 2% (I have used all three, they all work)
-1/2 t. salt
-1/8 t. pepper
[Note: Mine made enough for the pie crust and a little extra - so I sprayed a small glass Pyrex pan with cooking spray, poured in the extra mixture, and baked it along with the quiche - it turned out great also, so that's an alternative if you want a "crustless" version.]
Cut the turkey into bite-sized pieces and sauté with a little olive oil, onions, and garlic. When it’s nice and browned, add the spinach and cook until that’s hot.
Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.
Add the turkey & spinach mixture.
Pour into pie crust,
[Note: My mom taught me to pinch the sides of a store-bought pie crust to make it look "homemade."]
sprinkle with parmesan cheese,
and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is golden-brown.
I had mine with an ice-cold Screwdriver. A perfect way to combat the Monday blues.
Side note: My BF4EV (Blog Friend 4EV), Chelsea, also wrote a great blog post yesterday about Julie & Julia. This Saturday, Chelsea and I will be getting together for a day of cooking meals with which to stock our freezers. Then we’re going to guest post on each other’s blogs on Monday. You’re going to want to stay tuned. We’ll be wearing aprons. And taking pictures. I’m just saying.