The latest edition of Fine Cooking just arrived in the mail! This is a bimonthly highlight for me and usually represents the beginning of a gourmet cooking frenzy that lasts until I’ve cooked all the less complex dishes. (I’m not one to embark on day-long culinary projects, as my chunks of free time are fairly unpredictable!)
When its plastic-covered shape appears in the mailbox, I rush home to tear it open and then slow myself down completely to read it, cover to cover. I read every single section – the letters from readers, the wine and liquor section, the cookbook reviews, the food science section, the nutritional info, and, last but not least, the recipes themselves.
By the time I’m done my first perusal, I can list almost every recipe in the issue. These become bookmarked in my mind for future use, and that’s how after nearly two years of subscribing I can always remember having read a certain way to prepare beef tenderloin, or use sweet potatoes, or make cheesecake, and go directly to the recipe when I’ve got those ingredients on hand.
In case you haven’t noticed, I absolutely love cooking. It’s a creative release for me, a place in which to become artistic with quick, tangible results. When my husband gets home from work, I am thrilled to leave him with the kids and escape to the kitchen for my time alone, chopping and mixing and simmering whatever I please.
I was raised by a woman who is a fabulous cook but who hates doing it. My mom is skilled at being able to open the fridge, assess its contents in combination with those of the pantry, and whip together a feast. She can be frugal yet produce astonishing results. Partly because she dislikes cooking so much, I was encouraged to do it from a young age, though my early concoctions were often less than edible. When I was ten and she became pregnant again, her nausea was so bad that she couldn’t go inside a grocery store without throwing up. Shopping became my domain. Each week, my eight-year-old sister and I marched into the store, $100 cash in our pockets, and bought whatever we needed for the week.
Despite her feelings about cooking, my mom loves to entertain and taught me the power of food when it comes to hospitality. A well-prepared, delicious meal is one of the most welcoming acts one can give to a guest. There’s nothing like good food to break the ice, to stimulate conversation, and to make everyone feel great. She has guests at her table several times a week, whether planned or unexpected, but her philosophy is “there’s always room for one more.”
For me, cooking is an act of generosity, for it requires the gift of one’s time. It is also an act of consumer protest, for I try to buy local organic produce and meat whenever possible. Cooking is a necessity for health in today’s world of pre-packaged junk food, and it’s highly satisfying to know exactly what my kids are putting into their bodies. I plan my menus ahead each week and shop accordingly.
As a result, that now-perfect Fine Cooking edition will soon become dog-eared from rereading, wrinkled from getting shoved in my purse, splattered with rogue bits of food, and rippled from the odd water spill (thanks for that, hubby). While my collection of cookbooks is equally beloved, there’s something absolutely thrilling about get a fresh influx of recipes every two months.
And now, in real life, I have to go make dinner!