Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Culinary Evolution

I love food. I mean, I really love food. I think about it. I read about it. I crave it. I long to know what the foodies know. I, however, am not a foodie. Not even close. This is not a blog for foodies. This is a blog for people like me. Me, who at the age of 19 or so discovered that garlic did not, in fact, originate in powdered form. Who had no idea what basil was, or that oregano could be obtained as a fresh herb. Who could not cook many things and did not cook well. Who thought Olive Garden was authentically Italian.

I'm really not dumb. I could whip out my standardized test scores and prove it. I was just food-dumb. I know it's so blase to blame things on one's mother, but it's kind of her fault. Not entirely, but kind of. She just never really liked cooking or bothered to excel at it, or loved food, and she had an army of children to feed. Our family was big. Not the four-kid "big" family of today. I'm talking sports-team big here. With that many mouths to feed, I'd probably hate cooking, too. The woman could bake like nobody's business, though. No one's been able to duplicate her dinner rolls yet, even with the recipe. But, I digress. I came from simple All-American food. Meatloaf, casseroles, homemade pizza, pot roast on Sundays. We never ate anything more ethnic than sweet-and-sour chicken from the Chinese restaurant in the grocery store.

When I was engaged to my husband, he came to dinner at my place with his buddy and his buddy's girlfriend. With some serious advice from people who knew their way around a kitchen, I'd successfully made him salmon and shrimp during earlier dates (though the shrimp triggered his first-ever allergic reaction to shellfish and landed him in Urgent Care), so I had him somewhat fooled into thinking I was a better cook than I was. So, on this night, I went to the grocery store to procure the necessary ingredients. Chicken breasts. 2 limes. Rice. So far, so good. Six green onions. I went to the onions. Red onions, yellow onions, white onions, but no green onions. I looked and looked. I settled for yellow onions; six of them, just like the recipe said. Seemed like a lot, but who was I to question the almighty recipe-writers? When I got home, I began slicing the onions per the recipe. After three, I thought, "Holy crap, this is a lot of onion. I think they cook down a lot, though." After four, I decided that since no more onions would fit in the pan with the rest of the ingredients, the other two would just have to be our little secret. (I don't know who else was part of the "our", but that's not the point.) Needless to say, I think on that night my cover was blown. My husband didn't ask me to cook much after that. In fact, a lot of the time when I would offer to cook dinner, he'd say, "No, you had a long day. I'll cook." A few months into our marriage, I began watching the Food Network. Imagine my surprise when green onions were mentioned and out came these green straws-on-steroids. "Six of those would have tasted a lot better," I thought.

And thus began my quest. I became a woman on a mission. I was determined to figure out this cooking thing, to become that woman whose skills inspire people to angle for dinner invitations. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting better. My husband says I'm "an excellent cook" now, and not just to me. Before, when asked about my cooking he would say, "My wife makes the best banana bread" and leave it at that, unless further pressed, at which point he would divert attention by speaking about his own cooking skills. I must be getting better- or his taste buds are getting duller. One of the two. I've impressed others with my cooking and cooking-related tips (okay, they're not necessarily mine, but I remembered them, so I deserve some of the credit). I've even shared recipes with others and had them later complain to me that theirs was not as good as mine was and proceed to grill me on my exact ingredient choices. So, yeah, I'd say I've improved. But when you remember where I'm coming from, that's not saying much. I'm sure I'll have more green onion moments, and when I do, feel free to mock. Just don't ask me to cook you dinner.


Jess said...

I love it! Thanks for making me laugh out loud. The green onion story is a classic.

Holly said...

YAY! The green onion story is finally public for all the world to enjoy!! Ever since you told me about that, I can't walk through the produce section without giggling. SOOOOOOOO FUNNY!!! I too didn't know garlic was anything but powder or minced. I just was told a couple months ago that you can buy it on the glove. or clove or whatever it is called. Thanks for making me laugh, and making me feel normal. at least a little.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Wendy, I made progress over my OWN mom, who only used onion powder, paprika, and a little chili powder in cooking other than baking. I thought other spices that I saw in non-LDS homes of friends were against the Word of Wisdom. Seriously, I did. My father hated any kind of food that involved mixing things together. Like you, I had to leave home to discover that there were foods in the world that were spicy, tangy, zesty, etc. I had never heard of tacos or enchiladas or lasagne until I went to BYU. But I still don't really enjoy cooking and don't feel like I'm very good or creative with it. So good for you for breaking the chain of food ignorance!

Sue said...

Buy it on the glove, tee hee

Rob and Michelle said...

Okay, I'm so laughing at your mom's comment..."against the WoW". That's great! Yet understandable in our mormon culture. How cute.