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Who Put The OK In Cook?

Aug 17, 2007
According to Webster's Dictionary, cooking is preparing food by boiling, baking, frying, etc. My family thinks etc. best describes mine. Okay, but I've come along way from using raw potatoes in curried potato salad to recreating dishes from "Gourmet Magazine". Because I was kitchen-challenged before I was married, my mother-in-law immediately sent me "Fanny Farmr's Cookbook". I was put off by the name until my mother's contribution to her new son-in-law's survival arrived. For me "The Joy of Cooking" was a major misnomer. However, the more I cooked, the easier it was and the easier it was to eat what I cooked.

Food preparation isn't science. It's interpretive art. Soups and sauces became my culinary crafts because they were the best vehicles for "creativity" - a euphemism for wiggle room. Some say the secret of good food is fresh ingredients. Others say it's training or imagination. I know the secret isn't recipes because I stopped using them when they were too splattered to read. I use a little bit of this (if I have it), a little bit of that (if it isn't moldy) and as much luck as possible.

At first giving dinner parties seemed like command performances. Then I realized guests are predisposed to enjoy anything they didn't have to prepare or pay for. When I started cooking for our first son, there were feweer dinner parties. When we had two sons, there was more defrosting. As the boys grew, my attention was focused on toilet training and talking, then on homework and sports and finally on whether anyone was going to be home to eat whatever I put on the table.

This is when I learned to change the name of a dish to protect the innocent. If a bit of egg yolk got into what was meant to be a souffle, I said it was a frittata. When one son complained about having a bay leaf in his soup, I said it was good luck. When I tried something new, I said it tasted like...chicken. I also learned not to serve leftovers. If my family had like the dish the first time, they would have finished it. Because I didn't want to waste food, I disguised leftovers. Meat loaf became sloppy joes. Macaroni and cheese was stuffed into peppers and topped with leftover spaghetti sauce. Salad went into soups, pita pockets and pets' cages.

Although I knew the way to my mens' hearts was through their stomachs, what I made for them changed as I learned it also went through their arteries. Less fat, less taste, more spices. If nothing else, my cooking has become food for thought.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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