A Good Home

A Crash Course in Cooking

If you’ve read this blog or any of my books, you know that certain talents missed me completely.

Blog Photo - Jelly Jar one

I make herb jellies well enough, as I wrote in A Good Home. But cooking, baking, knitting, and any form of interior decoration are foreign lands. My husband, daughters, sisters and friends live there, and they speak a whole different language.

I once made cauliflower with cheese — a simple 2-ingredient dish — and forgot the cheese, as you may have read in An Honest House.

And that reminds me: I know part of the reason I never learned to cook. When my sisters were watching my mother cook, I was nowhere to be found. I was always in a tree, on a rooftop, or hiding in the field behind our house, reading books.

My poor husband sighs elaborately during Christmas dinners and says he knows he married the wrong sister but he’s stuck with her. 

Blog Photo - Christmas table2

“But why have you stuck with me?” I usually ask.

“You have other talents,” he laughs.

“Name one,” I demand.

“Err… ummm..”   He pauses, pretending to think hard about it.

I once joked that I’m gifted only at ‘exterior design’ — gardening — but stopped that joke for fear it would reveal an awful truth: that, deep down, I’m really superficial. I mean, what if when I dig beneath my surface, all I find is more surface?

TWIGS COVER

But I digress.

Since the interior arts are not my thing,  it’s weird that I’m the one doing most of the cooking in this house since the pandemic began.

Blog photo - Baby read a story by mother

Having invited daughter, son-in-law and new baby to come and live with us during this time, I knew we would cook more often, yes. I just didn’t know the cook-er would be me.

What’s more, the only thing I truly ruined took place last evening when the large salt grinder broke open over my one-pot meal. 

Blog Photo - Cookbooks - plant-based dishes

I’m still trying to figure out how I could have prevented that sad event, but as I stood at the stove and watched the destruction of the meal I’d spent hours preparing (yes, I am very slow at this), I froze, in horrified disbelief.

If a person has to ruin a dish, shouldn’t it be for a more splendid reason, like going off to get myself a glass of expensive red wine and forgetting the stove was on, or going to answer the doorbell because my husband had surprised me with a bouquet of fabulous flowers, or some such glorious thing?

But no. My big failure at cooking had to involve a large grinder of Himalayan salt falling apart in my own hands, over the entire meal.

Blog Photo - Cauliflower dish2

So, having declared that failure upfront, I am sharing a photo of a dish I made recently.   It starred a roasted cauliflower, which is slightly ironic, given my sad history with that vegetable.  It’s a stew, with potatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes and peas.

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41 thoughts on “A Crash Course in Cooking”

  1. Oh, boy that stew looks good! Made my mouth water, that’s for sure. So happy to read that your daughter and family are living with you during this terrible time. Wish my New York daughter were here with me, safe and snug in our home in the woods. What a beautiful profile that darling baby has. How lovely it must be to see her grow and change.

  2. Love hearing about your cooking Cynthia!
    Something that would happen to me also .
    You have many talents Cynthia. Love Tony&Joanne

  3. That looks soo delicious. I’m sure it more than made up for the meal that was lost. I love the part about you being in a tree or on the roof while your sisters were learning to cook. Never climbed on a roof but did love sitting in a tree. How wonderful it must be to have three generations all together in one house. How fortunate for you and for the baby, nothing like having granma on hand for special attention.

    1. You are so right. We all feel very privileged. It’s a joy having them all here. Though they are now doing “sleep training” with baby and I keep wanting to run to her crib to comfort her and stop the crying. Grandma is a wuss!

      1. That sounds all too familiar. My wife never gives up trying to get me to cook but most meals even the simplest always seem to go horribly wrong. I drive her to distraction as although she is an excellent cook she hates cooking! She just can’t understand it.

  4. I sure enjoy your storytelling Cynthia. Now, you’ve added hearth to the health, home, and garden talents. I’m glad you have your family close by to feed and entertain with your cooking prowess. 🙂

  5. Your cauliflower dish looks good! I still make that dish I learned about from you, the sweet potato, chick peas and onions. I have since added kale to the recipe (we grow a lot of it), along with some turmeric. I think of you every time I make that dish. I think your cooking is just fine! 🙂

  6. A good laugh! I seem to have done more cooking since I became a grandmother than when our girls were children! Last summer my daughter gave me The Roasting Tin: Simple One Dish Dinners by Rukmini Iyer and it is brilliant – I have never in my whole life used a cook book like I use this one. Love the image of your granddaughter as student reader.

  7. I think a lot of people are learning to cook during this time. Who knows? You might grow to like it, or get craftsman like at it. It’s so nice that you are together and can be with your daughter and grand baby. Meanwhile, that stew looks fabulous, and just a little secret–the one time I tried cauliflower cheese, it wasn’t very appetizing.

    1. You mean I didn’t miss anything with that 2-ingredient dish? Haha. I think you’re right about people trying to cook. I hear it often these days. Plus some trying to grow their own veggies and greens from seed.

  8. Now, you’ve hit a hot button. 🙂 I ‘can’ cook and did for many years. I’m just tired of it plus my husband and I now like food prepared differently. I do most of the planning and the nights I don’t feel like cooking I’d better be interested in whatever it is being fried. 🙂 Now, baking is another topic. That I like and enjoy. Glad you guys are all safe and sound.

    1. Good to hear from you as always, Judy, and delighted that you too have a husband with whom you occasionally differ. “Whatever is being fried” made me giggle!

  9. Well your roast cauliflower stew looks lovely and the salt was an accident. Many of us have had a similar fate at one time or another, well I certainly have.

  10. All I can say is that I am in good company. However, being in isolation has improved my culinary attempts. I never knew there was so much on the internet. I am beginning to think that I can read therefore I can cook.

    1. That’s the thing. All my successes so far are from 2 cookbooks and a few recipes from the internet. But I have no real culinary intelligence and I can’t just make up a dish based on ingredients available. That may be a bridge a zillion miles too far. We will have to see. Congrats on your progress.

  11. Pretty funny, Cynthia. But I felt for you over the salt. My mother used to cook cauliflower and cheese. She never forgot the cheese (grin) but it still wasn’t a favorite of mine. Your stew with it looks good— and much more interesting. –Curt

  12. You made me chuckle with your cooking skills but that dish looks seriously delish. But about not being a master chef, you can always have a takeaway meal delivered to your home. That way you kill two birds with one stone, i.e. you feed your lovely family as well as support your local restaurants, during these hard times. We are doing our best here to make sure our favourites restaurants don’t go out of business. 😀

    1. Excellent move. My older daughter and son-in-law are doing the same. We do here occasionally too but it would be nice to do so more often. Hope you’re doing well, Khaya.

  13. Shame about the salt cellar… but the stew looks good. I’m sure a lot of people are upping their culinary skills at this time.

  14. The cauliflower looks delicious. The most notable instance where my own cooking occurred when I was not clear on the difference between a clove of garlic and a head of garlic. Let’s just say we were safe from vampires that night.

  15. The stew looks delicious and who knows what kind of a cook you’ll be by the time this is over! Of course you have a very obvious talent that you haven’t mentioned, which is writing!

  16. Cynthia, from someone who has always claimed themselves a dismal failure at cooking, I’d say you are really doing well. Everybody has something like that salt incident happen – it’s discouraging, but now it’s in the past. The stew looks super yummy, and I say they all should be happy to have you cooking!!

  17. Ugh! Cooking! I really find it so tedious and would much rather be doing something else. We all have accidents when we cook. My very first one was cooking a stew for my first husband when he was my fiancé. I hadn’t realised one shouldn’t put Pyex glass dishes onto direct heat and had a big surprise when it exploded and covered the kitchen in dollops of stew and bits of glass. My most recent one was a couple of months ago when the handle of the pan I was carrying broke off and the contents ended up on the floor. So much mess to clear up and no dinner either!
    Your stew looks amazing! I am sure you are a much better cook than you imagine. I love the photo of Lauren and her baby!

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