Friday, February 08, 2008

Sharing the love

I love to cook. Since I was three (yes, really), I've had fun exploring in the kitchen. I learned a lot by observing and experimenting. My parents encouraged any efforts we kids made in the kitchen. Dad made it a point to take my sister and me to white tablecloth restaurants so that we could appreciate fine dining.

When other kids were content with Spaghettios, we were having Mom's homemade marinara sauce. It spoiled me. A good friend in elementary school's favorite way to have chicken was when her mom bought the box of Banquet fried chicken from the grocer's freezer. I was lucky, my mom made a homemade fried chicken cutlet in her grandma's cast iron skillet. Damn, it was good stuff, served with drawn butter.

When I was in junior high, I took over the nightly cooking duties. My brother made the world's worst meatloaf one Tuesday night and dad turned to me and said "You're cooking dinner." See, Mom worked nights and Dad was there with us kids in the evenings (they'd split four years prior). Mom planned the meals, but it was up to us to cook it.

I learned to make a roux back then, but I didn't know that's what it was called. I just knew that if I was making chicken a la king with the leftover chicken, I needed to melt the butter, add flour and spices, then the milk. It took a long time to get the hang of getting the sides done with the entree, but it happened.

The biggest boost to my ego was about a year into the making dinner thing, my mom had my leftover chicken cutlets and decided she liked mine better. Any time she wanted cutlets on her nights off from work, I made them.

We had an awesome diner in my hometown. It's still there and the same couple runs the place, a converted dining car. Everything Nick cooked was done in sight of the patrons. I would watch that master of short order cooking and get ideas.

The thing I learned from him is how to make home fries. His were fresh chunks of potatoes and caramelized onions, salt, pepper and paprika. Over time, mine have evolved into something that doesn't resemble the original inspiration. They have onion and garlic powder and a little bit of curry. Just about every one of my friends know this probably will be on the menu if they eat over-I love to make them.

Like my mom, I'm not happy unless I'm sharing food. Food is love. I told my employees in a staff meeting last year, entertaining is the best gift you can give people-because you are giving the gifts of your time and kitchen. They got my message over the holidays. I kept bringing my crock pot in, laden with the promise of filling their bellies.

Last week, as we were preparing for inventory, I asked the other managers what I should put in that crock pot, as we'd agreed that we'd feed the staff. I made suggestions of a couple of hearty things from scratch. I've been big on making things from scratch lately. Among the ideas was homemade au gratins with ham. My boss ran with that-lets serve breakfast!

Some breakfast items were acquired from Costco. I spent part of Sunday afternoon making preparations. Muffins and home fries-ten pounds of home fries. The crock pot was full of them and the house smelled like a diner. When I walked into the store, my staffers saw the big crock pot and descended on me-what was the treat this time? (without even a bite of them, one staffer said "I am SO getting your recipe for that!")

Once again, I brought them something to enjoy. I'm happy to report that it was a hit. It feels pretty darn good to rehash the inventory with my boss the next day and one of the first things she said is "We are definitely having those again next year, right? We can make more breakfast foods, too! Right?" (I told her the egg dishes were HER responsibility, though.)

Pretty cool!

4 People talked back:

Joyce-Anne said...

I, too, cooked dinner when I was younger and living at home with my parents. Back then, it was another chore for me. However, it wasn't until I was married, that I discovered I enjoyed cooking for people (especially people who like to eat). And, every once in a while, I even get to be creative...like making chicken cutlets and adding garlic powder and romano cheese to the bread crumbs and flavoring the egg with more romano cheese, garlic powder and milk. Yum! Even if I do say so myself.

imaginary binky said...

Yum! Send that crockpot to Sarah Porter, Denver, Colorado... Heheh.

Allie Bear said...

I love to cook, but since my daughter was born I don't cook nearly as much. I was born and raised in Houston and they say it is the "eating out capital of the U.S." so I ate out a lot as a child but my mother was also a home economics all-star so we got plenty of home-cooked southern meals. I really should start cooking again more but I hate the mess in the kitchen...lol.

klasieprof said...

Food is love.
Yes.
We try to rarely eat fast food, and eat pretty good food most of the time.
It appalls me how expensive stuff is...and how much cheaper it is to cook at home.
Maybe its just cause we're "financially challenged" right now, but I'd rather spend 15 in a grocery than at Mc D's.