Friday, March 2, 2012

The Cooking Life: How It All Began

Back to my normal schedule. Whew! Posting every day for a month was challenging. Until I do another “Month of . . .” series, I’ll be posting foodie stuff and recipes 2-3 times a week.

Speaking of the next “Month of . . .” series, what would you like to see me tackle? Desserts? Appetizers? Chicken dishes? Casseroles? Pastas? (Mission Impastable is the first book in my culinary mystery series.)

Make suggestions in the comments section and I might name a dish after you if you chime in. I’m kind of leaning toward those little mini desserts as a possibility. DH loves them, and so do friends. But, the gate is open on options. Let me know what you want. I will plan on a new “Month of . . .” every 3 or 4 months.

For today, I am feeling nostalgic. I had some early influences on my cooking interests. Big Mama cooked the way she had learned in the Appalachian mountains. That meant if it wasn’t fried in lard or had lard added to the veggies for flavoring, it wasn’t cooked.

The occasional salad was iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing. If it was summer, we added in carrots and tomatoes from the garden. If not, well . . . I cook nothing like that, and I haven’t since I left home for college. I do wonder why sometimes. It seems I was more influenced by some outside sources, though I am hard-pressed to identify them, than by years at Big Mama’s side. Odd.

One of my earliest cooking memories was when I was about 4. I was standing on a wooden chair pulled in front of the gas stove. I was stirring scrambled eggs. Why that memory? Who knows, but I see it clearly in that little galley kitchen that was my first home.

When I was about 12, my favorite aunt gave me a spice rack with 12 spices for Christmas. Wow! I was thrilled. Clearly I had been either expressing an interest in expanding my cooking or I was doing some experimentation. Why else give me that? My mother watched me open the box and turned to my aunt with an expression of dismay. “What have you done?” she asked. I’m not sure how soon it was before she forgave her.

Up until my spice rack (with exotic spices like basil and tarragon), I used the spices Big Mama provided--salt, pepper, or cinnamon. After the gift, I added spices to everything I cooked. And because we were really poor and could not afford to discard food uneaten, we ate it no matter how awful. It really was terrible sometimes.

I continued exploring spices and how to combine them. I either developed my taste-o-meter or tuned in to it during those years. To this day, some of my favorite reading is cookbooks and recipes. It’s as if I can taste what the recipe is describing with that taste bud in my head.

I thought everybody had a taste bud in their heads until some friends gave me very odd looks. So now I only share that with you. Keep it to yourself, okay?

Comment below if you, too, have a taste bud in your head and if you use your taste-o-meter to gauge how to develop a new recipe. There are not enough of us out there. Oh, and don’t forget to suggest a new month-of series.

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