Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Day

Well, it's a happy and a sad day. We're heading off to take my niece to college.

She's actually my adopted niece. Her mom and I became friends over 10 years ago. She's a single mom. And I decided at the time that I could help, but I was only going to be my niece's friend too if I could be in it until she was grown up. Kids need steady people in their lives. I decided I could be steady. So I became her aunt. And now she's grown up. And off to college.

I'm going to miss the silly conversations. And the fact that someone actually asks me for advice. And listens! Occasionally. And I'm going to miss having an excuse to go into stores like Hot Topic and Forever 21. And I'm going to miss little hotline into what the kids are doing these days.

But she's a pretty happy, well-adjusted kid. Who is now off to college. And I think I had some part in that.

So. Happy that she's off to be a grown up. Sad because I'll miss the kid.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To boldly go . . .

Okay, you know I love reading food columns and watching cooking shows. I adore recipe porn. I read the ingredients and put the dish together in my head. Ooo. That sounds good. Really? Cardamom?? You naughty thing! But one thing that will turn me off automatically in a recipe is people who measure things by weight. Yes. Even in baking.

Here’s why: I watched my grandmothers bake. They barely measured anything by cups, much less breaking out the food scales. Sometimes they’d just throw a handful of flower on the counter, throw milk, salt and butter at it, wiggle their fingers in the dough, splash on more milk or flour, whack it with a stick, cut it out using a juice glass, throw it in a pan with some Crisco, and bake them until they were golden brown. However long that was. They were biscuits. And they were good. Better than anything I’ve ever had created by the Anal Retentive Chef.

Here’s what I’m saying. Cooking is an “organic” thing. There are twenty things that may affect any one dish. Even just biscuits. How much protein is in your flour. How high the humidity is today. How fresh your milk is. How warm your butter is. How consistent your oven is. And on and on. You have to pay attention. If you dough looks too sticky, you throw in more flower. And I beg your pardon, but nobody weighs the amount of flour that gets thrown in because their dough is too sticky. Or milk if it’s too tough. And even cakes, where precision is king, I’ve cakes made by grandma-style bakers that are as good as ones made by a top pastry chef.

When it comes right down to it, experience is the secret ingredient. And you’re not going to get it if you’re scared to cook because you need exactly 29 grams of flour. Get flour in your hair. Fire up the grill. Find a recipe that sounds great and just do your best. You get to eat your mistakes! And most of the time, even if you don’t get exactly what you were aiming for, most people will say it tastes pretty darned good anyway. And the more challenging the recipe, the more you learn. The bold eat well.

TIME: Quotes of the Day