Recipe for Life

Admittedly, I came to cooking late in life. My parents put solid meals on the table for me as a child. In college, the dorms provided 24X7 food service. My young adulthood (and much of my not-so-young adulthood) was spent in fast food drive-thru lines and popping boxes into the microwave. I was well into my forties before I finally got fed up (more appropriately “unfed” up) and tried my hand at cooking. I became enamored with the slow cooker, which I still love and use frequently, and eventually ventured out into meals requiring more skillful preparation. I’m actually a pretty good cook now. I don’t have an extensive list of dishes at which I excel, but my favorites, the ones I make often, are quite tasty.

I have learned one thing about myself in the process, though. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. See, not having grown up cooking, I didn’t have that intuitive understanding of what flavors work together or which ingredients will overwhelm a dish if you add a tad too much. 

So, in an attempt to minimize the number of meals best served to the garbage can, I tried to follow recipes. I really, really tried.

Huh-uh. Ain’t happening.

3/4 teaspoon of salt becomes, “Oh, look. I have garlic salt. Maybe that would be good.” Or, “Ick, I don’t like celery in soup. I’ll just add twice as much onion instead.”

A little of this and a little of that. Experimentation and failure. Substitution success (sometimes).

I’ve finally given up following recipes exactly. I dutifully write them down…and then do what I please.

But none of that is really the source of my enlightenment. What I have recently come to understand is that I live like I cook. A little of this, a little of that.  Experimentation. Substitution. And occassionally I take a big investment and chunk it in the garbage can–and feel good about that.

I don’t want to be bound by measurements and timers. I love to ride horses and write and read and train dogs and be in the thick of disasters. I love spur-of-the-moment lunches with friends and dropping in on family. I love to cook and eat and enjoy a glass of good wine. Schedule-schmedule. I like to do different things on different days in no particular order. I’ll get wherever it is I’m going in my own time.

That’s my recipe for life.

5 Responses to “Recipe for Life”

  1. 1 A. C. Cockerill August 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you! I’m not alone, in abandoning recipes. My favorite dish to cook is stew. I can throw in whatever ingredients and spices I’m in the mood for that day–and 1-3 hours late, it just works. Ta Da! Cheers.

  2. 2 Sally Felt August 30, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I’ve never been much of a cook, either, but economic circumstances can do amazing things for one’s personal creativity and resourcefulness! I now use recipes to learn basic techniques I can use on my own later.

    Earlier this summer, I made my first ever roast. It was a round steak and I used Coke as a marinade, and then was surprised it tasted like Coke. Ick. (And, duh!) Today, I roasted a pork loan that had marinaded in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Super simple… and tasty. Yay!

  3. 3 vickietaylor August 30, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Sally, Yay for you!

    Sometimes cooking actually turns out to be a good bit more expensive for me (89 cent crispy potatoe tacos at Taco Bell, anyone?) because I use a lot of fresh veggies (organic when I can afford them). Plus, since I’m often cooking for one, I end up throwing too much away. Which I hate.

    Which is why I end up experimenting sometimes! For example, this evening I made a grilled eggplant sandwich with a tomato sauce on it that I got the basics of from a Food Network show then modified to be my own. But it was only a dressing, and the only canned diced tomatoes I could get were the full-sized ones.

    Luckily, I had made a wonderful white-bean soup yesterday, so I just dumped the rest of the tomatoes in the leftover soup to make it go farther and avoid throwing them out. Both dishes turned out delish!

    It was a good day.

    If you’re looking to learn the basics, I do recommend Food Network and the Cooking channel. But warning…they can be addictive!

  4. 4 vickietaylor August 30, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    By the way, Sally, I’m sorry I missed the high heels exhibition on Saturday. I’m told there are pictures….

  5. 5 Kim August 31, 2011 at 1:02 am

    I love your approach to life – try it all and see what sticks. :)))))

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