So, I’ve mentioned that Adam learned to cook from his mom, growing up. What did I learn about food growing up?
1) One recipe out of the Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook (snickerdoodles for the win!)
2) Eggs cooked in a microwave suck (sorry Mom)
3) Bread dough should be placed atop a working dryer to rise; nice enclosed space, extra dry heat – it works well.
Seriously, freshman year of college, during the traditional round of ‘cafeteria food sucks’ that all freshman I’ve met/heard of do, I said, honestly, no trolling intended, ‘this tastes a bit better than I got at home.’
My friends were appalled.
Let me clarify that a bit.
My six-foot tall, football player sized, 18 year-old guy friends were appalled.
Probably because they all knew how to cook (and cook well).
Let’s just say that peer pressure works, because my response to being a) the lone female in a group of guys and b) the only one who didn’t already know how to cook was to decide that obviously cooking is a life skill and if I wanted to be a competent adult, I was damn well going to learn how to feed myself.
Yeah, I had some delusions of being a Heinlein-ien “competent man”. Except, you know female. What can I say, I was 18. These days I just aim for reasonably keeping my life in some semblance of order and knowledgeable about ‘my’ areas. One of the best benefits to being partnered, to my mind, is getting to hand off your weak areas to your partner’s strengths (or slightly better skills…)
Any way, back on track.
So yeah, I am completely self-taught. Basically from cookbooks. Yes, I have a book on knife skills. You have no idea how much that helped. Also, sped up prep time. When I started teaching myself, I started with stir-fry because 1) I like Chinese food and 2) had to stay at the stove the whole time – no wandering away and forgetting that there was a casserole in the oven. But let me tell you, focusing on stir-fry without good knife skills? Pain and sadness, my friends, pain and sadness. Although, no knife injuries (on my hands or anywhere else). Apparently, if you’re sufficiently aware of ‘holy shite, I have a thing that could make me bleed that I’m wielding near my fingers’ you pay attention enough to avoid cutting yourself. Even with less than stellar knife skills. Why yes, they’ve improved, why do you ask?
And yes, I own a kitchen timer now. A rather nice one that can keep track four different times simultaneously. Useful for Thanksgiving dinner. And dinner parties.
Other things to know:
1) I have no sense of smell
(No really, the scientists at NIH told me so!)
I am, in fact, missing both olfactory nerves in my nose and the olfactory bulb in my brain to process what the non-existent nerves would send up.
(No, really, the nice scientists at NIH told me so!)
This means my sense of taste is less than average. I figure I’ve only got the five basics (Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, and Umami) and the pain receptors call Spicy:
- Sweet: Over dosing on sweet makes me a bit nauseous (as does roller coasters, riding in the back seat of cars… stupid stomach/inner ear). Yes, I love dessert and baking. Quite a lot. Just… moderation of sweet. Or so I try.
- Salty: Look, if I can taste the salt, there’s too much salt. Because when I taste salt, I’m tasting grittiness. Salt should enhance all those other, subtle flavors I totally miss. Yeah, I fall on the under-salting side of the scale. I’m working on it, I promise.
- Sour: Eh.
- Bitter: Do not want
- Umami: Yes, please.
- Spicy: I absolutely love spicy. Spiciness if good. If it’s not your thing, please, please, on any recipe I mark as spicy, use the low end of the range I’ll give. And have a glass of milk at the ready for drinking. (This tip brought to you by L, a good friend. Even if she doesn’t like spicy food. Or nuts. J )
So, there will be no descriptions of smell from me – wait for Adam’s posts for that. My focus is on visuals and texture. Texture is, in essence, taste for me.
2) Food sensitivities
Yep, in addition to not being able to smell, I have food sensitivities. Life is unfair and then you die. So let’s have some good food in the meantime. Luckily for me, none of these are of the ‘kill you dead’ or ‘carry and epi-pen’ variety. Just the
Me: ‘oh god, what is that horrible, bright shiny thing?’
Adam: ‘the sun?’
Me: <wailing> ‘turn it off!’
migraine variety. Also, it’s a dosage-response thing: a little bit usually doesn’t hurt.
- Alcohol – most cooks off on the stove or in the oven, so this doesn’t affect my cooking too much. Just no imbibing or wine pairings. Also, a large hole in my knowledge of food related stuff that I just cannot seem to care enough to fix. Although, apparently I make really amusing faces whenever I taste beer. We’ll have to see about getting a video of that up here. J
- Caffeine – no coffee, tea, or chocolate unless I say ‘f— it, that looks worth a migraine (L, I’m eyeing your brownies). I do miss tea. Ah well, at least Adam’s morning coffee is safe from snagging. And given the way that boy loves his coffee, I think my fingers are happier for it.
- Peanuts – pain and suffering. I also avoid peanut oils and peanut butter.
- Citrus – no raw citrus fruits or juices. Cooked is alright though.
- Bananas – yes, bananas. No, I don’t get it either.
- Sulfates – sulfates are usually used as preservatives in processed meats. So, no bologna, pepperoni, salami, chorizo (thought that is sometimes worth a migraine…). And lots of reading of ingredient lists.
I may have mentioned this earlier, but texture is taste for me. And that I don’t get the subtle flavors from the aroma and whatnot. So yeah, mushrooms are… awful for me. Like, rubbery, chewy, slimy awful. Choke on them if I accidentally eat one awful. I tend to leave them out of recipes. And if I don’t? Well, then Adam gets my share – much to his joy.
My parents did not keep kosher while I was growing up (still don’t but I don’t live there anymore). But we still never had any pork products in the house. First time I ever tasted pork was a set of pork chops one of my buddies in the cooking rotation made for dinner, senior year. Didn’t really like them (thought they were kinda gritty, which might have been freezer burn). First time I liked pork was a pulled pork dish my ex-boyfriend’s mother made on a visit (also senior year). I’m still trying to recreate that taste (it was really good). And yes, I’ve asked for the recipe. She doesn’t remember exactly what she did/used. Ah well.
Bacon. Um, yeah, this is not the blog for bacon (please keep reading anyway!). Visually, bacon just hits all the wrong buttons for me. It combines the two things I dislike most about food: fried/cooked until visually wrinkly (my visual cue for overcooked) and visible slabs of fat that isn’t marbling. Plus, since I didn’t eat any growing up, I don’t have any happy childhood nostalgia for bacon. Just not my thing.
So yeah, pork recipes are going to be sparse around here.
He likes him his meat. We joke that he’s a carnivore, not an omnivore. He’s terribly good to put up with the occasional vegetarian experiment. Even likes them on occasion. 😀
He’ll introduce himself later.