I grew up cooking, but I was typically the sous chef; standing on a rickety kitchen chair beside my mom, homemade apron tightly secured about my waist, peering into a bowl or pot of deliciousness. My mom has always loved to cook, and not just Sunday night roasts, shepherd’s pie, or sloppy joes. No, we gulped Mexican tortilla soup, dug into chicken tikka masala, and enjoyed homemade granola and the best butter tarts I’ve ever had. My parents were hippies, and as such, we tapped our own maple trees for syrup, grew every vegetable that graced our family’s table, and got our meat from local farms … except the one time my dad tried to clean our own chickens. Let’s just say the head removal went very wrong, and I remember being “chased” by the headless chicken, although my parents say I’m embellishing the memory. I blame my previous decade-long vegetarianism on that experience.
Now, while I learned the link between farm, land and table early on, and spent hours cooking with my mom, I somehow missed a few key skills. For example, despite my best attempts, I can’t grow anything … including the basil sitting on my windowsill that I have to replace every month or so. I also failed miserably at bread-making 101 (well, at least the one time I tried with my breadmaker), and as a former vegetarian, all meat I cook comes out the same: overdone. But I love nothing more than perusing recipe books, dog-earing the meals that make my mouth water. However, most of those cookbooks end up gathering dust. Because as a freelance writer and part-time, stay-at-home mom to our preschooler, recipes that take longer than 15 minutes don’t make the cut. I stick to the basics; to meals I can make from memory that I know will be gobbled up by the family, and are easy to hide veggies in (you can’t imagine what I can do with a can of pumpkin).
While I dream of cooking at Le Cordon Blue in Paris, or on a farm in Tuscany, I have accepted my kitchen is as good as it’s going to get — at least for now. But always up for a challenge, I’ve decided it’s time to shelve the safe meals and pique my family’s taste buds more often. Plus, I’m getting bored. And seeing as I’m the only chef in the house (although my daughter loves being my sous chef, in my hand-me-down apron), I need to break free of our meal monotony. Thankfully, Chatelaine is here to help.
So as I cook and learn my way through Chatelaine’s Holiday recipes, I vow to make a perfectly roasted roast, master pie crust, and wow all visitors to my table. Let’s get cookin’…