In which I pretend to be a “foody”

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January 21, 2009 by skwishface

So earlier I shared the great tale of my kitchen conquest. It was epic, yo.

That was about 5 years ago. There have been many culinary escapades since then, only about half of them even remotely edible. I never have let a failed cooking experiment get me down, though, because I made a discovery.

Cooking is the best hobby ever. Why? Because it is okay to fail. There is always a back-up plan.

Nobody is going to boo you out of your own kitchen if you (like I did) underestimate the power of your broiler and set fire to what should have been perfectly delicious sourdough toast. That’s why the good lord invented windows – so you can open them and let the smoke out. You will not be publicly mocked if you (like me) mistakenly believe that because the versatile new pan you purchased can also go in the oven, any dish you prepare in it should be baked. (hint: special things must be done to an alfredo sauce to make it bake-able. things I did not do. the result was distinctly glue-like) Times like this are why I have take-out menus stuck on my fridge with Happy Bunny magnets.

Most especially since I started having kids, I really really appreciate having a pastime that not only interests me, but at which I can fail (often and horribly) and there are no long-term consequences. Nobody is going to have years of therapy later in life because my pork chops closely resembled hockey pucks. My hideously over-sweet birthday cake will not prevent The Boy from getting into a good college. And as long as I keep the raw meat over there and the vegetables over there and make sure everything is cooked thoroughly, nobody will even get sick!

Also, you learn from failure. For instance, I have learned that burned rice smells oddly sweet, and burned chile con queso is ugly but edible. Overdone chicken needs an awful lot of sauce, and underdone pasta cannot be saved once the sauce is on it. There is a fine line between delicious and too much when it comes to vinegar, but there is no such thing as too much chocolate. Marinating is an excellent tool for adding flavor to meat, and a fascinating chemistry experiment in the corrosive powers of lime juice (hint: given enough time, it can burn through anything).

Out of the fires of failure there can be forged the bright metal of success. Every year at the holidays, my kitchen smells exactly like my Oma’s house (in the peaches-and-cinnamon way, not the potpourri-and-Soft-Scrub way). I can roast, suatee, pan-fry, bake, steam, and I even have my very own bright red charcoal grill. I have mastered several recipes, invented a few of my own, and have no fear in trying new ones.

Recently, the financial situation in my household inspired us to eliminate going out to eat from our budget. But we still miss our favorite restaurant dishes, so I stumbled upon this site. That there is an alphabetized list of copycat restaurant recipes. Yes, even Red Lobster biscuits. For the past couple of weekends, I’ve been experimenting with new dishes, trying to create at home what I have heretofore paid someone else entirely too much money to cook for me.

The result? I will never set foot in Olive Garden again, since I can make an even tastier version of their Zuppa Toscana at home (and I can add all the extra sausage I want). Johnny Carino’s holds no siren call for my husband, because now the baked cheese tortelloni in a creamy tomato sauce can emerge from his home kitchen at a fraction of the cost. But perhaps the greatest triumph has been dumplings.

Not the wet biscuit kind you find amongst my Southern bretheren, oh no. The steamy, fragrant, meat-filled kind that I was once willing to pay an entire buffet price to consume. The Chinese kind. And wow are they easy to make. Time-consuming, but one batch yields dozens of delicious little pockets of yum and they keep in the freezer pretty well. The Husband was skeptical, for he watched me make them and he is not a fan of the piles and piles of onion the recipe called for. But who ate damn near every dumpling on the table? The Hubs, that’s who.

So it’s been a long and strange road, and will only get longer and stranger as my culinary ballsiness increases. I hereby encourage everyone to get into cooking. It’s cheaper than going out to eat, you never have to do the dishes afterwards (if all is fair in your house), and it’s really okay to royally eff it all up.

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