This is the Non-cooking Chefs’ Daughter blog. You see, both my parents are chefs. They met at Johnson & Wales University, both in the Culinary Arts program, Dad soon to become an Executive Pastry Chef and one of the few Certified Master Bakers in the country and Mom soon to cook food so delicious that it kept my brother and I home for family dinners every night of the week, even through our teens.
I only brag about this because my talent in the kitchen is slim to none. Zilch, nada. I can barely cook toast without burning it, and popcorn…I look at an unpopped bag of popcorn and it turns black and starts smoking. For a few cheap years in college, I baked Christmas presents for everyone I knew instead of buying gifts – the cookies turned out okay, but just because of constant hovering and direction from my parents (to this day, I still call Mom and Dad for guidance whenever I’m cooking anything, at least three times per recipe; I’ve taken to warning Mom a few days in advance so she knows not to make plans while I’m attempting to cook something) and because of cooking-luck, which comes from my grandmother. I’ve spent hours upon hours in the kitchen with her, while she cooks and I’m peeling potatoes or onions or cutting lettuce and tomatoes for a salad, all easy things that can’t, supposedly, be screwed up. I’ve never seen her use, glance at, or even refer to a recipe. Ever. She throws whatever she has in the cupboards or the fridge into a pan or a bowl and it turns into something absolutely gourmet within the hour.
I suppose I have to be honest though: her cooking-luck is more like skill, whereas my cooking-luck is more like dumb luck.
So while the talent for cooking didn’t pass through genes to me, the passion for food certainly did: I have cookbooks strewn throughout my apartment; cabinets filled with ramekins, Bundt pans, griddles, cookie cutters; receipts collecting guiltily in my purse from restaurants across the city (Haufbrahaus in the Southside Works is my new obsession – I would do anything for one of their soft pretzels and homemade bier cheese); Food Network always on on my TV. But the cookbooks and special pans and startlingly-mindblowing restaurant foods and Giada De Laurentiis intimidate me. There are special rules that come along with everything that I can never seem to understand, no matter how “easy! simple!” the recipe says it is: “Before you start, make sure the butter is softened to exactly room temperature – not one degree higher or lower, or you might as well throw it out now – and mix it with a wooden spoon, stirring only clockwise at a speed of 1 revolution every 5 seconds while making sure not to overmix…it’s as simple as that!!”
No. No, that is not simple.
So I don’t cook, even though I go to sleep every night desperately wishing I could.
But I’m done being intimidated. Screw recipes. Every week I’ll be bumbling my way through the kitchen, rewriting recipes, trying to understand the basics of cooking and the science of food, on the phone with Mom and Dad, and praying that my grandmother’s cooking-luck sticks with me. Next week is the Steelers first pre-season game, and since Pittsburgh (ahem, SIX-burgh) takes football pretty seriously, and I live with two straight guys, I’ll be trying to cook some hearty, sports-worthy food. Wish me luck!