In the Kitchen

In my (apparently) never-ending attempt to provide maximum bang for your reading buck, I’m launching — you guessed it, didn’t you? — another series: In the Kitchen.

I taught myself to cook when I was in my twenties and have been wielding a knife and standing at the stove ever since.(*1)

Two reasons why I learned how to cook: 1. I loved food. 2. I had no money.

Again, I was in my twenties, it was the early 1970s (can you say “inflation”?), I had no skills, and lived more-or-less hand-to-mouth, working at low-wage jobs. It followed, therefore, that if I wanted good food, I had to learn to buy and prepare it. Going out to eat was not an option. Poverty shaped how and what I cooked: I had to figure out how to stretch what few dollars I had, AND eat food that was nutritious.

Thirty years later, my taste in food (no pun intended) hasn’t changed much: I still focus on basic food. Real food. But ease and convenience also matter: My husband and I go out to eat maybe … three? four? times a year, so I cook the food we eat. (No “year” is not a typo.) (*2)

But I also work long hours, and don’t always want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I’m big on leftovers, and on dishes survive well in the freezer. (Smartest thing I ever did was convince husband to buy a small freezer. Bliss!) So, this series is focuses on what’s cooking.

And yes, I have an ulterior motive: Perhaps some of you will share some of your kitchen creativity. After 30 years, I’ve got a repertoire, but everyone’s repertoire can benefit from the occasional kick in the ass.

Two final points: If it’s gourmet you’re after, well, this ain’t the place. My food is basic. Rice and beans? Love ’em. Last point: My offerings aren’t necessarily original, so whenever possible, I’ll provide the original source of the recipe, along with the tweaks that I’ve added to it.

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*1: I grew up in a household where I was expected to do lots and lots of household work, but for whatever reason, that work did not involve food preparation. Washing dishes? You bet. Weeding the garden? Oh, yeah. Dusting, cleaning, etc. I’m a pro. But no cooking. When I was 18, I had no idea how to cook an egg.

*2: As far as I’m concerned, most of the time, it’s more trouble than it’s worth to go out to eat: You gotta figure out where to go, then go there, then wait for a table, then wait for someone to take the order, then wait for the food. Etc. It’s just easier to eat at home. And of course, it’s considerably less expensive to eat at home. True, I live in a small town and there’s not much to choose from, restaurant-wise.

Now if there were a decent place to eat breakfast, that would be a different matter. I’d probably take myself and my morning papers there once a week. But there’s not, so I don’t, and we eat nearly every meal at home and that means I cook. Which, I should add, I enjoy doing. I wouldn’t want to cook for six people three times a day, but I do enjoy my time in the kitchen.

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