When at First…

you don’t succeed try, try again. I find it amazing that I ever learned how to cook, went to cooking school, have the recipe collection I consult regularly and write a “foodie” blog and contribute to other sites.

Back in the day my parents gave me an EZ-Bake Oven, yes, the one that cooks with a 120 watt light bulb. There were probably three packets included (what a scam) and the first I chose was pretzels. I ended up with dough-encrusted hands and nothing to show for my efforts. Had I known to add more flour because it may have been humid that day or their measurements were off, I would have corrected the situation. But I was probably six years old.

I never made pretzels again, nor do I wish to do so. But I tried again and after two times with the infernal light bulb machine I graduated, well before age ten, to the real oven and stove.

In college my mother got her first Cuisinart and I looked at Jean Anderson’s recipe for pizza dough and have refined it over 30 years in regard to proportions of dry to wet ingredients, amounts of flour, type of flour (now I only use Italian 00) and judge the amount of water by atmosphere and altitude. Three feet above sea level is much different than 6,400 feet and one must roll with the punches.

These days, I would get a stool with rails and bring an interested child up to counter level and let them do what they were able to do. Stir a batter, taste a Bolognese sauce, measure for a roux, butter and flour a pan for his sister’s birthday cake.

A while ago a family came to visit and we had MYOP (make your own pizza) night where every family member got to roll out their own dough and top it with any of about 18 ingredients I’d also prepped beforehand. The older child wanted plain cheese pizza but the three year-old wanted olives, caramelized onions and garlic. And anchovies. There’s the kid who doesn’t need (sorry) the Fischer-Price toy kitchen, but needs to learn from the source or if her school has a program, use it. Her palate is very sophisticated for a now four year-old. Place her in a school garden program and she’ll go places.

Many things happened at age eight as I went to the library every weekend and learned the importance of reading, kept one book longer than I should have, costing $.31 of my $.50 allowance but my parents bought Betty Crocker’s Boys and Girls Cookbook a few weeks later for my 8th birthday.

I learned to leave unnecessary appliances off the counter (like E-Z Bake) and learn the real stuff, how to host parties – my younger brother had theme parties pre-Kindergarten I organized based on royalty (the Castle cake) and Pirates.

No matter how many culinary errors were made I kept at it and even quit the NYC rat race to spend my life savings on cooking school. Now I cook at home and my husband credits me for making him a “food snob.” When I met him he was living in a man cave with only a 72 oz. Dr. Pepper and individually wrapped string cheese in his frig, with cheese wrappers littering the carpet between the frig and his computer. Now he opines about the difference in mature cheddars.

I kept at it and never gave up. I don’t bake as my siblings are great at that. I cook with my heart and soul and make dishes to make people happy and enjoy good company. I made chicken skewers tonight (hubby grilled them) but the marinade is a mystery to me as I just tossed things in. It was really good, chicken with pineapple, tomato (I had a couple on hand), scallions. Indonesian soy sauce, mirin, a few drops of sesame oil, scallion tops, grated garlic and ginger. Served over Israeli couscous. Good stuff. If I try it a couple more times I might send a recipe along. Oh, you can get sweet soy sauce on Amazon. Amazonazingly,Dee


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