Cooking, A Great Passion

I have pondered a couple of questions at different times in my life.  The first question is what exactly do I want in life? This includes what are your hopes and dreams?  The second question is the one I plan on writing about today. Who is Susan Drew (me)?  At least I will discuss one of the answers.

Until recently the answer would be and has been, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother.  These answers really are not who I am as much as what I am. I am proud of being Chris’ wife, just as I know he is proud of being my husband.  I adore my kids and their families.  It is just that there is more to me than being wife, mother, and grandmother.

It amazes me how it has taken until I am in my 50’s to discover  my true passions in life.  My husband and family are my loves, but they are just the starting point of things that spark my curiosity and bring me joy.

I have written about my obsession with saving money.   This was one of the first passions I found I had.  This introduced me to another passion that helps me save money.  Of course it can cost me loads of money too.  This passion is cooking and it is the one I plan on sharing with you today.

I began my cooking experience when I was between 10 and 12. Oh I am sure I helped cook other things, but the first memory that stands out for me was a Thanksgiving meal I cooked.   My mother was ill and we were hosting my aunt and uncle for dinner.  My mother bought a Butterball turkey so the turkey would be moist.  I cooked nearly everything, but the pies.  When I was a teen I began cooking meals for my dad as mom was busy working.  There was no creativity involved.  Dinner nearly always consisted of a meat, a potato, and a vegetable.  The meat was pan fried.  I don’t remember anything about the potato and the vegetable came out of a can.  This was not because my mother couldn’t cook differently, it was the only way my father would eat.

Marriage changed how I cooked.  I married a man who was the eldest of 6 children.  He introduced me to pasta dishes.  We were financially lacking so the most creative thing we ate was shake and bake chicken with a chocolate pudding pie.

We lived on a farm when our children were young.  I learned how to bake apple pies and any number of snacks for our kids.   We gardened and I canned fruits and veggies.  We raised pigs and steers for market and for our own table.  We had ducks and chickens for eggs. I had one cookbook.  It was the Better Homes & Garden cookbook.  The cooking I did then was to feed us and to do it as cheaply as possible. I was so overwhelmed with life to even notice if cooking was a joy or a chore.

Once we moved to Florida things changed.  We began eating out and buying  pre-packaged meals.  I worked and for whatever reason no one else cooked.  Things are fuzzy from then, but I do remember one daughter making a chicken dinner for her boyfriend that ended up using nearly every pot and pan I owned.  There was a huge mess, but no meal for us. Cooking was certainly a chore to me then.

Once life slowed down, meaning I got laid off, we chose to stop eating out unless it was a special occasion. This was also the time in which I was introduced to some amazing cooking shows on cable.  Laura Calder and Alton Brown became my heroes.  Alton Brown took the fear of experimenting from me.  He also opened the door to making sauces and gravies.   I now make an awesome gumbo because of him.  Laura introduced me to simplicity in cooking and the joy that it brings.

Living a life cable free means no more  Cooking channel or Food Network. I went through withdrawal.  Then I found the Create channel from PBS.  This is where I discovered America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country depending on the name of the show you are watching.  They come up with ways to work recipes to perfection.  The horrible part is that unless the recipes they are cooking at the time you are watching, are within the current season, you have to pay for access to the recipes online.  I guess this isn’t horrible, but inconvenient when you are a penny pincher such as myself.

One of my most popular posts is one about making your own Velveeta Cheese.  This recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen.  It is a really good recipe.  I try to make this as I then know exactly what is in my food.

The web is an awesome place for me to find amazing recipes.  I love Ree Drummond and her blog The Pioneer Woman ,  Deb Perelman and her blog Smitten Kitchen, and of course David Lebovitz.  Another really great reference is foodnetwork.com.

My youngest daughter knows my obsession with Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat.  She bought me the cookbook.  My eldest got me the Smitten Kitchen and one of The Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks.

The truth is please keep them coming as I love them.  I have a few I still want! Okay, time to refocus, I love  each and every cookbook I have been given. I love having a shelf of resource material when I am in the mood to cook.  I have converted my husband to an avid cooking show viewer.  I think you need a good basis from which you can rely on when in the creative mood or when you are just plain sick of cooking the same meals every week.

I had the chance to purchase the America’s Test Kitchen’s current cookbook that has all past season’s recipes and 2014’s recipes.  Oh, my, what an amazing cookbook. I would love to purchase this as gifts for my whole family. This certainly beats the Better Homes & Garden cookbook I started out with. I have used it repeatedly since purchasing it.  Each meal I prepared from this cookbook has been amazing.  I baked a whole chicken that was moist and entirely yummy.  It actually rivaled a rotisserie chicken in flavor and moistness.

A note to anyone who wants to buy me a gift.  Any and all books by David Lebovitz would be appreciated. A good French cook book, a good middle eastern cookbook, and a good Mexican cookbook would be  greatly appreciated also.

Finding that one of my passions is cooking opened the door to realizing that I am creative. This is a trait that I never dreamed I had but always wanted.  My mother is great at crafts and sewing, my paternal grandmother was a piano teacher, my aunt is an artist, and my daughter is a flutist.

I am not always perfect and I fail at many attempts when cooking.  I no longer look at these attempts as failure. For each failure there is a chance to learn and continue to create.  For me there is an almost childlike anticipation to see how a recipe that I tweaked or created from scratch comes out.  The true joy for me is to see the look on someone’s face of satisfaction when they eat something I made.

My word of wisdom today?  Get out there and find out who you are.  Find that passion and I promise you it will bring you great joy!

 

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