Taking a break from my usual Tuesday recipe/restaurant sharing to talk about cooking in general.
I realized yesterday while cooking my homemade Bolognese sauce that I’ve become a part-time food snob. I say part-time because I don’t cook everything completely from scratch, and I don’t buy all organic and free range stuff. I even like processed stuff occasionally, (but only for items that I can’t make better myself, like Twinkies!), but my food standards have definitely changed over the years. I’ve discovered that even when there’s a lot of time and work involved, it’s very satisfying to cook and bake completely from scratch, because, well, it tastes better! Homemade cakes, for example, rather than those that come from a mix, rise better, require less leveling before decorating, and taste amazing. Homemade mac ‘n’ cheese is a completely different dish from the stuff in the blue box. And there’s nothing like a soup or sauce that has simmered all day long. Not to mention the obvious benefits, like being able to control, (or even substitute), the seasonings, and the health benefits from making foods that aren’t loaded with preservatives. I don’t cook like this every day…who has the time? And the cost for homemade stuff is, puzzlingly, oftentimes more than just buying the prepackaged variety. But I really love the days I cook from scratch, from the enjoyment of smelling something cook all day long, to the finished product.
But when did this transition occur? When did I become “one of those people?”
At first I didn’t think I’d be able to pinpoint a specific time. And it wasn’t an overnight transition…it’s been a gradual change. But I can identify when the shift started, and key points that encouraged it. I wish I could say that the change started as soon as I got married, and started cooking our meals. But the truth is, I had no idea what I was doing back then! I remember cooking in the little kitchen in our first apartment, and feeling overwhelmed at the idea of trying to time it so that the main dish, vegetable, and starch would all be ready at the same time. Now I can cook a whole Thanksgiving dinner without putting as much thought into the timing as I used to for every night meals! So, while I did cook, and the food actually tasted OK, I wasn’t good at cooking, yet, and I certainly wasn’t adventurous in our menu choices!
Ironically, I think my food snobbery first began thanks to satellite TV. When we moved back to St. Louis, when Bunny was just a baby, we got satellite TV for the first time in our married life. Even when my oldest two were too small to really get what I was watching on TV, I still wanted child-friendly things on if I happened to be watching something when they were up. And so I started watching the Food Network. And anybody who has watched that station long enough knows that a.) you get really hungry really quickly! and 2.) you begin to want to replicate some of the things you see being made. And that’s what I did. Mostly simple stuff, because we were still on a very tight budget, but there was definitely more “from scratch” cooking being done.
Then we moved into our last apartment before buying our house. Again, there was satellite TV, and more cooking shows, but now there were two additional benefits. First of all, our kitchen was much bigger in that apartment than in the previous one. I could get more of my kitchen stuff out of storage, and I had more room to move around, which just made cooking more fun. Second, our budget for groceries started to increase, and I was able to buy more interesting things. I think the first time I really deglazed a pot with wine when I was making soup happened in that apartment, and it really made an impression. I really felt like I was cooking, instead of just assembling ingredients.
The transition was complete when we moved into our house. Now I have a fairly big, open kitchen, complete with an island, (that was always the dream!), and most of the kitchen tools I really need. Ryan helped complete the transition when he bought me a food processor as a house-warming gift. I had wanted one for a long time, but didn’t really have the space for it. I’ve slowly added other kitchen necessities over the last five-plus years: a good set of knives, nice clad cookware, a stand mixer, (that was the other dream!), a good cutting board. And my confidence in my ability to cook complicated meals has grown, while my prep time has actually decreased, (probably due to the aforementioned confidence in the kitchen).
I am still occasionally limited by budget in what I can cook–there are some things that are just too expensive for us. Steaks for six, soon to be seven, are just not an option! And I’m a bit limited by having an electric stove instead of gas, but for the most part, I can work around that. But cooking has become a real joy to me, because of the satisfaction it brings me to create something, and to share something special with my family.
Now, if only I could get all of my children to regularly appreciate the things I make for them, I’d be all set…