I grew up not knowing how to cook and never eating home cooked meals, but assuming it was something anyone could do if they followed instructions well. Because I’ve always transcribed numbers, mixing up oil and water on microwave brownies to get oily chocolate soup was always disappointing/humbling/awful.
But, when I would go to visit friends and their mothers or fathers made some home cooked dish (green bean casserole with french onions and cream of mushroom soup, tenderloin, chicken and dumplings…)I always pushed my hair behind my ear and swallowed…HARD. Home cooked food was strange. It sat in pans so long, to me, I could smell the hidden undertones and essences of the person who made the dish. Even cupcakes for elementary school birthdays had a hidden scent of so-and-so’s house.
And now I cook, reading cook books like tabloids and scratching notes in the margin. Cooking, I know now, is all about adapting and being flexible. If it doesn’t quite work, can you save it? If it implodes, falls on the floor, tastes bland, burns…can you smile and make it look like you meant to do that? Or, can you take something every day, mundane and simple, and make people realize what they were over looking? Cooking, it turns out, is art. My art. I’d have never known from the drive through at McDonald’s.