Focus on Food

So here’s the thing…I like to cook, I like to write, and I like to share. I think my lens for this little blog is beginning to focus.

Little baking tools for little hands.

I’ve always been a decent cook. I almost couldn’t help but be. As the daughter of a home economics teacher, I had my own tiny cookie sheet, pie plate and rolling pin. But there was no Easy Bake Oven for me. Oh no. Why would my parents spring for a box with a light bulb in it when there were not one but two perfectly good wall ovens in the kitchen?

Things that feel instinctual now, I learned at my mother’s elbow from a young age. I was the only teenager working at McDonald’s who knew how to separate an egg. I still use the drugstore wrap with aluminum foil. I feel like I’ve known the cookie method my whole life.

I remember the first meal I made from scratch for my family was scrambled eggs. I remember it like it was yesterday, standing on a chair in front of the stove, slowly moving the egg back and forth as it cooked in the green pot, enjoying the scent of the dash of nutmeg. Mom didn’t hover, but she was in the next room if I needed her. Those were good eggs.

Maybe I should have been a cook but it didn’t seem like something to do as a job. It was something to do for family and friends. Something to share. A way to show that you care. What more heartfelt gift is there – short of donating a kidney – than satisfying the taste buds and filling the stomachs of those you love?

So I graduated from the kitchen at home to baking cookies for my fellow students in university residence. Even when my first attempt at mom’s molasses cookies (not, as I had assumed, made with the cookie method) produced a large batch of hockey pucks, we ate every last one with big mugs of tea to soften them.

Happy packages of cookies ready for co-workers.

I moved on to holiday baking marathons, cranking out a wide and glorious variety of cookies, squares, and fudge that I’d prettily package up and distribute to co-workers. Then I started hosting holiday open houses known for the spread of nibblies, hot apple cider, and big pots of chili and seafood chowder simmering on the stove for hungry guests. (Let’s not talk about the year one guest ended up in the emergency room, which may or may not have had anything to do with the poblano chili in the guacamole…)

After 20 years of cooking and baking simply for the joy of it, my biggest culinary challenge presented itself. I got married and started cooking for a husband (let’s call him H) and his teenage daughter (let’s call her D).

The first thing I had to do was re-arrange their kitchen because at 5’2”, I couldn’t operate in the land of the tall. (We’ve since moved and I’m quite happy with a good, functional kitchen. Ooh, and just wait til I show you the pantry…)

Next I had to get used to making sure there was something to eat every night. Duh, you might say. But as a single, I could easily throw together something quick, easy and nutritious for one, and make it when I felt like it. It’s not quite that simple when it’s for three, has to be (at least mostly) palatable to everyone, and has to fit into a busy schedule – including two week nights when I’m teaching suppertime fitness classes at the Y. (Luckily, we can all fend for ourselves for breakfasts and lunches. I salute those of you who are juggling the full meal deal!)

Then, I had to figure out how much to cook. I was used to making a lasagna and being able to feed on it several times through the week, while also packaging up leftovers to freeze for the future. With more mouths, a lasagna could be devoured in two nights and a work-day lunch.

I didn’t worry too much about the grocery bill at first. It was more important to figure out what I was doing. But once I hit my stride, I started working harder to lower the bill. I also now aim to spend more of the budget on local food with weekly trips to the farmers market and seeking local produce and brands at the grocery store.

I just got all these cylinders firing in sync when the ante was upped again. The family schedule got even crazier this fall. I added an evening French class, and D’s hockey schedule got more frantic with quick turn-arounds between games and practices.

So what did I do? Well, that will be the subject of the next few posts. So stick around.


ps – I haven’t thought of a good name for this blog yet, now that I’m focusing on food. I figure I should wait a bit and see how this evolves. If you’ve got an idea for me, I’m all ears. There might even be a tasty treat in it for you if your suggestion ends up gracing the top of this page…


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