Tuesday, January 11, 2011


There is a room in the house that is unmatched in its ability to produce pleasure and satisfaction. This same room is capable of producing intimidation and dread. Now get your mind out of the gutter; I'm talking about the kitchen.

Julia Child's "My Life in France" kept me company last week while I was home sick, and I quickly saw how inept my kitchen skills are...as if there was any doubt. Unlike me, Julia was passionate about food. The very science of it fascinated her. She would try a recipe for sole normande dozens of times until she got it just right. I don't see that being realistic for most American non-chefs. But why should we try dozens of times when the trying has already been done? (She happened to write a classic cookbook including only the perfected recipes. Badda-bing, badda-boom.)

I had a blowout. 
It takes some of the pressure off when I remember that I'm cooking for one, and I tell myself that when I have people to cook for one day, I will pay lots of attention to cooking. It's hardly satisfying to sit down and savor a good meal by myself. And unless I want to go the market four times a week (which I don't), my fresh food options are limited. For example, I'm thrilled to pieces that I'll be able to eat all my fruits and veggies before they go bad this week. This is an accomplishment.

On the other hand, when lots of love and effort go into preparing something, and it TURNS OUT!!, there's hardly a more satisfying feeling. Watching someone eat it and go weak in the knees makes me smile like a fool. It's like watching someone's face when they open the perfect gift -- no words are needed.

Something funny has happened. I've noticed that I'm attached to my two stainless pots. These two cooking companions were there when I was eating crumbs in California and I still use them almost every day... twice. They are slowly but surely getting that used kitchen pot look. You know the one. It's delightful, and I don't like the thought of parting with them.

If I didn't have reason enough to learn to cook before, I certainly do now. My doctor recently told me that I can't eat wheat or corn for at least six months, but ideally not for a year. And thus I became high-maintenance overnight. Every processed food in America is no longer an option. What do you do when wheat and corn are out? You eat like an Asian. Rice, rice, rice. There are other grains too, like quinoa, kamut, spelt, and some other ones that I forgot. So in six months, the idea is to be a lean, mean, healthy cooking machine. At this point I'm just intimidated.

A soup recipe I read began with making chicken stock, so I turned to the chicken stock page. Once I saw the nonsense about buying a whole chicken (head and feet still attached) and using them to make the stock and letting the whole thing simmer for 6 or 12 hours, I stopped breathing and vowed never, ever again. I went out and bought chicken stock and the soup was just dandy.

Wherever you are on your cooking journey, take heart. Julia Child finished her book by saying that a person learns to cook, no one is born with the ability. Whew! There's hope for all of us. I'm starting small, and if that's all you can do, embrace it and celebrate the just-less-than-burnt until it comes easy.


  1. Anna- I still don't know alot about cooking after 30 1/2 yrs of marriage (my husband is very undemanding in this area, thank God!!) Did so enjoy Julie and Julia- the movie. Was fun without spurring me in the cooking direction at all_ Haha!

  2. favourite scene in the movie - when she is chopping onions ferociously. :)

    this blog was great, and gave me a chuckle. thanks.