My mother taught me how to cook. Or more specifically, she gave me free reign of her Better Homes and Gardens cook book, which I think might have been what today we would call the text-book for her college classes in nutrition.
My mother was a perfect teacher in that she let me try whatever I wanted and then extolled the result. I concentrated on the desserts – pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins. Since most of these things require rather precise measurements if they aren’t going to fall flat, I learned to follow the rules pretty carefully. I was highly socialized with a need to please, so I tended to be a rule-follower anyway.
When I joined the convent, my talents were recognized immediately and I was given a long-term assignment to assist Sister Anne Cecelia in the bakery, where we also, understandably, baked by the rules. Except Sister Anne Cecelia who often used her sense of taste or texture to decide whether we needed more sugar or flour or butter. But it never occurred to me to try to emulate her talent.
Then I married Peter who actually enjoys cooking as an art form. It was a revelation. He used recipes as suggestions, not as rules. I watched him for years in astonishment and wonder. (He did, though, leave the desserts to me, after the first failure in which he discovered that to get a cake to rise, it is necessary to get the right proportions of rising agents, sugar, butter, and flour.)
But it is only now in my old age that it has occurred to me that I too might cook something without slavishly following the
rule book — er, I mean cook book. This, after all, is the way humans have been cooking since we first learned to light a fire under our food more than half a million years ago.
It’s a risky business because I don’t really know what I’m doing, and if what I produce is totally inedible, I can’t exactly plop it on a plate and serve it to anybody else. But so far I haven’t produced anything quite that impossible.
And it’s quite fun.
I don’t really think chocolate ice cream with honeyed mushroom sauce would work though, do you? Even with a cherry. Still, if carrot cake works…