My dirtiest cooking secret is this: I can't. Cook, that is. Not well anyway. The day I got married I had never cooked any kind of meat except ground beef, tuna, or hot dogs. My ground beef experience was limited to Hamburger Helper. I'd never made cookies or any other treat food, not even instant pudding. I cooked plenty of meals growing up, it's just that all of them came in a box. Imagine my dismay when our grocery budget left me with no choice but to buy things I had to actually cook. That first year I called friends and family members at least twice a week with some sort of crisis. I'd forgotten the tomatoes for the chili, could I still make it? What the hell is buttermilk? Baking soda is the same as baking powder, right?
This may not have been so bad, except I always waited until the last minute. I've never had any trouble doing anything I really tried to do, so I assumed cooking would be the same way. I assumed I'd have everything I needed, not really knowing what I needed in the first place. I was unprepared 99% of the time. Most of our meals for the first couple of years had ingredients varying from the recipe and were eaten at 10:00 because I didn't realize how long stuff took to cook. It may have been easier just to let Vic cook, but he was raised on meat, potatoes and starch, all of them fried in about 3 inches of oil. I refused to eat like that.
So I learned. I burned stuff. I returned meat to the pan over and over because it was underdone. I scorched stuff. I curdled stuff (who knew you couldn't add lemon juice to cream sauce?). Slowly I learned which flavors complimented each other. I learned recipes are important when you haven't made something before. I'm proud to announce that after almost 11 years of barely passable cooking, I can finally cook a steak that resembles neither a leather sole or fire log. I've learned to make things I never thought I could. And while I'm still not ready to try souffle, I'm confident I can produce a meal with great flavor that everyone will love.
I still can't bake a cake without having it stick to the pan. I still can't time all the parts of dinner so they'll be ready at the same time. But I'm learning. Tonight I'm typing this while waiting on baked potatoes in the oven. Not sure how long they take to bake since I've never made "baked potatoes" in anything but the microwave. It's 8:00 and I'm hoping we'll have time to eat dinner without the kids being up past their bedtime. Again.