Food of Love
February 25, 2013
I remember the first time I fell in love. I was a young girl sitting on the kitchen floor watching my Italian mother make homemade sugo (pasta sauce) and fried meatballs. The tantalizing smell of the sautéing garlic and onions was enough to hook me (as well as getting to taste test!). But that extra special ingredient that mom always added really got me. What ingredient, you ask? Love!
I have been cooking and baking with love for about 25 years now. I have had many successes (entering the kids cooking contest on Channel 41 A.M. Live and winning; setting the standard in my high school foods class for how to cook the perfect omelet) as well as some failures (not realizing you have to refrigerate your cheesecake overnight before you can eat it; the first pie I made with my brother-in-law with the fresh berries we had just picked not setting up – we ended up eating it runny and it tasted sooooo good!). I know it’s a cliché, but practice makes perfect.
Cooking and baking take some trial and error. And as Emeril Lagasse (my favorite television chef) says, "It’s not rocket science!" I believe anyone can be a great chef as long as they have the desire and the love. Here’s a perfect example: My big sis used to make frantic phone calls to me from college to ask things like, "If I make a double batch of cookies, do I have to bake them twice as long?" "Only if you want burnt ones,” I’d say. She is now one of the best cooks I know. She's has even taught ME a thing or two!
The most enjoyable thing about cooking for me (besides savoring the fruits of my labor) is sharing the experience with the people I love. My husband and I are often in the kitchen tag-teaming dinner and dessert. And, we always have a blast when we get to cook with my sister and brother-in-law (the more the merrier!). It is also very exciting to see that a few of my nephews have taken an interest in learning to cook. One of them even sends me recipes thate he creates himself, and they come to me for help!
If you’re not already a fabulous chef and would like to be, you might ask yourself, "Self? How can I learn to cook like a pro?" Well, aside from learning from the pros in my life (my Italian mother and grandmother and my Ukrainian mother-in-law) and the pros on television (I actually got to meet Mario Batali once!), I've learned, and still do, a lot from cookbooks.
Some of my favorites include: Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking: Recipes and Techniques for Successful Home Baking (any of the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks are top notch), and 500 Pizzas & Flatbreads: the Only Pizza and Flatbread Compendium You’ll Ever Need (the 500 hundred series of cookbooks are also great because they give you several variations on every recipe). I would also recommend anything by Lidia Bastianich, Emeril Lagasse, and Ming Tsai. My recommendation for the younger set is Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs.
MCPL is a great resource for cooking. You can check out all of the cookbooks I mentioned above (and more) as well as instructional DVDs. There are some great Research Databases, too. The Culinary Arts Collection allows you to search thousands of recipes and other useful information about everything culinary. Access Video on Demand lets you watch chefs prepare some great dishes right from your own computer. How cool is that?
So, happy cooking everyone, and don’t forget to add pinch (or more to taste) of love!