Cooking and I have been through several evolutions. I left home at 18 as a young, married woman. I could cook (sort of) thanks to my brief Home Economics class in High School. Cookbooks were my friends because, at the time, a long-distance phone call cost money. That meant I couldn’t afford the luxury of calling mom for instructions.
As my cooking developed, very few of my creations came from family traditions. It was adequate, straight out of cookbooks, and not terribly exciting. I had my successes and many failures as I experimented.
When Michael and I started dating, he treated me to his creative and tasty cooking. He told me that he loved to cook and he also liked to do his own grocery shopping because he used certain brands and varieties in his meals. I wasn’t about to argue with his desire to cook and shop for our family.
He also taught our son at a young age to help in the kitchen. I was totally willing to give up most of my cooking duties.
This year, I lost my personal chef. Not only did I need to relearn what cooking skills I had long forgotten, but it left me wishing that I had paid more attention to what Michael was doing in the kitchen.
It’s slowly coming back. I can’t get over feeling competitive about duplicating his preparation of some of our favorite dishes. Last Christmas, with help from Matt, we succeeded in making a pretty darn good eggs benedict.
Since Michael’s passing, his baked ziti is my latest challenge. He had constant requests for this dish from our whole family. I tried to duplicate it and the results were just passable. I’m learning that it’s more than the ingredients alone. The cooking time and other pieces of the preparation are important too. His ziti was always well blended, bubbling with exquisite sauce and cheese and each bite was a delight. I suspect there was also just the right amount of love in every step of the process.
It’s time to get out some of our favorite cookbooks (of course I still have them) and see if I can’t whip up some new Judy’s specialties.
The silver lining in the changeover in the kitchen is that I’ve cut way back on my personal quantities and taken off thirty-six pounds. I hear the French control their weight by quantity instead of quality. Maybe that needs to be my next genre.
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