Learning to Cook

I got married when I was 23 years old.  I was happy to step into this new relationship and role and learn as much as I could.  As the busy child of a busy working Mom, I had never really taken the time to learn the basics of cooking.  I could follow a recipe, but I really only cooked on a whim and pretty rarely at that.  But I was now ready to get started.  In those early days, there were a LOT of spaghetti (jar of spaghetti sauce, browned beef, and noodles) and tacos (browned beef, a packet of taco seasoning, taco shells, toppings) for Dinner.  Not exactly gourmet work.

I began studying cookbooks, trying this, trying that and slowly adding skills and recipes to the evening meal.  But because I was so very inexperienced and not all that confident, I followed each and every recipe I chose as if it were Holy Scripture.  Every measurement was precise.  If an ingredient didn’t have optional next to it, I had no idea of how to compensate or substitute if I happened to be out of it.  Whenever I was eating a home-cooked meal with a friend I would often ask for their recipe.  Frequently, I heard the maddening phrase “well, I don’t really have a recipe for it, I just throw it together” with a casual shrug.  HOW did people DO that!?  I was jealous, annoyed and in awe of such skill.

Fast forward several years.  

My oldest daughter was preparing to move out on her own.  One day she got out a notebook and pencil and started asking me for the recipes of some of the things I routinely made.  Surreally, I heard that selfsame phrase come out of my mouth.  My eyes and my mouth opened and I thought, “When did THAT happen!?”  Of course, with time, experience and practice I had evolved into a reasonably good cook, moving without realizing it from tacos and spaghetti to being able to cook a full Thanksgiving Dinner.

These days, while I would NEVER go on a cooking show (too stressful) I am confident in the kitchen and do a lot of “winging it”.  This often results in a new favorite meal.  If I do follow a recipe, it’s more of a guide, a suggestion, an idea with me adjusting, however I wish, as I go.  This is gratifying and freeing.

I’ve applied this same concept over the years to almost any skill I have learned.  Do the homework, gain some of the basics and principles and then just go for it.  If you don’t like it this way then do it another way until you find your groove.

These days. of course, it is my knitting that gets the benefit of this process.  I did not have the good fortune of a grandparent or other relative to teach me how to knit or crochet.  So, in the beginning, it was VERY simple pattern books, eventually YouTube videos and tutorials and picking the brain of more experienced friends when the chance offered itself.  I knew I had really begun to turn a corner in my knitting when I caught myself adjusting a pattern as I went because it suited me better.  I felt that same spark of joy and surprise I had over the recipe notebook with my daughter years ago.

There are still a good number of techniques I have yet to acquire, but many things that were once daunting are now basic to me, so I have every confidence I will eventually become reasonably proficient in them.


On the knitting front this week, I have completed the mittens for myself that I shared last week and have almost completed another pair for my daughter.  I only need to add theErinsMittens thumbs.   They are actually more teal than the picture shows, but I am pleased with them.  I have been doing some stash busting for these smaller projects and with these mittens I have been playing yarn chicken, not being entirely sure I would have enough to complete them in the main color.  I have a small ball remaining and (fingers crossed) there will be enough left for two thumbs.  If not, I will do them in the same gray I used as a bottom band.

As I consider what I want to cast on for my next project, I’m feeling the push to do some more socks and I’ve decided recently that I want to learn the toe-up technique.  I have only knit cuff down socks so far and would like to add the skill and compare the two methods.  That way I can start to tweak my sock knitting in the way it suits me best.

In order to do this I picked up a copy of Toe-Up Socks For Every Body by Wendy D. Johnson from the local library and I plan to spend some time this evening choosing a pattern.

Toe-UpI’ll show you my progress in the next post and perhaps a review of the book as well.  I’ve only briefly flipped through it, so far, but there are some very nice patterns that would make nice additions to my sock drawer.


In other news. 

With the occasional return of some nice sunny days (see It’s Spring!….Oh. Wait.) I had begun to give my chickens a chance to do a bit of free-ranging.  However, the last time I let them do this I found them in the woods across the street and it took some work to persuade them to come back.  So we came up with an alternative.  We bought some temporary fencing and created an enlarged yard beginning at the door of the outer pen.  We made it large enough to encompass the herb garden that sits not far from them.  This will be beneficial for all of us.  They will work the soil and fertilize that spot, have more access to the fresh air, sunshine and fresh grass, but still be somewhat protected from predators and their own wandering ways.  Eventually, I will change the fencing arrangement so I can begin planting my herbs in the chosen spot, but they will have a new area to graze.  I’m soooooo looking forward to fresh basil again!

Weather permitting, we will be tilling up the vegetable garden spot this week to prepare it for the seeds that are on their way now.  I hope to can and preserve more from my garden, once it starts producing, and fill my pantry with my own home-grown goodness.  In recent days, just to brush off my dusty canning skills I’ve been doing some small batches of things like dried beans or spaghetti sauce  (homemade!) just to get back into the rhythm of it again.

I really do love the do-it, make-it, grow-it yourself lifestyle.  I haven’t always lived in a place that had room for the kinds of things I wanted to do.  I’m happy to finally be in a place that allows me to expand and grow.seedling

Whatever you are cooking up or making up, may you have fun in the process,

Jamye

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