Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why I No Longer Try to Impress People with My Cooking

I am so proud of myself--I made a really good dinner tonight (roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli) and I made chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The cookies are HUGE! They're from the A*m*erica's T*est K*itchen Family Cookbook (love A*m*er*ica's T*e*s*t K*itchen!), and they're intended to stay chewy, so, we'll see. I haven't baked cookies from scratch in YEARS! I'm going to try to post a picture of them--my first picture! Here goes:

This reminds me that, a while ago, I said I would write about why I no longer try to impress people with my cooking.

I did not do a whole lot of cooking until I was out of college . . . nor was I very good at it. I had a few dishes that were my specialties, and I could make a decent meal, but nothing really impressive. We also were not into spices in my family.

So, after I graduated from college, I started grad school and my best friend started working about an hour away. She is a very good cook. She came over for dinner one night, and I told her we were going to have chicken and rice. Knowing my cooking skills, she asked how I was going to cook it. Ummm . . . . put the chicken breasts in a pan and put them in the oven? And how about the rice? I showed Friend the U.n.c.l.e. B.e.n's broccoli-cheese rice package.

"OK, Charlotte, how about spices for the chicken?"


"What spices do you have?"

"Ummm . . . garlic salt and cinnamon"

Now, in my defense, I was in grad school, taking home $660 per month (and no, this was not that long ago), so, given that I was not used to cooking with spices, I wasn't shelling out the little cash I had to buy lots of them.

We determined that I had both honey and yellow mustard, so we decided to mix those together and brush the chicken with honey mustard.

"OK, Charlotte, where's your brush?"

"Brush? I don't have a brush . . ."

As time has gone by, my cooking skills have improved. When I got out of school and got my first job, I didn't know anyone in town, and so I took to watching the cooking shows on P*B*S on Saturday mornings and working on my cooking.

Shortly after Mr. X and I were married and had moved into our house, Friend and her husband came to visit. We had a fabulous time together. By this time, I considered myself a pretty good cook, and I was really looking forward to impressing them with my cooking. I was going to make sauteed chicken breasts with a lemon wine sauce, steamed broccoli, potatoes, salad, and from-scratch brownies for desert. (Hmm . . . a slightly fancier version of tonight's dinner, now that I think about it . . . )

So, Friend and I started in on the chicken together, and pretty soon, we started disagreeing. To flour or not to flour? Butter or olive oil? I stopped, reminded myself that enjoying time with each other was certainly more important than wowing her with my chicken, and said, "Friend, why don't you do the chicken, and I'll do the vegetables."

But, really, steamed broccoli and baked potatoes are no great feat when trying to impress one's friends with one's cooking prowess. But I was confident that my scratch brownies would knock their socks off. They'd say, "Why, Charlotte, we had no idea you'd learned so much about cooking and baking! We welcome you to the club of the Good Cooks!"

So, I melted the butter and chocolate, mixed in the eggs, flour, fancy sea salt, and all the rest of the ingredients, and popped them in the oven. They came out smelling heavenly. We took our first bites, and then we noticed. The crunchiness. And the saltiness. I used large grain sea salt in the batter. And there is really not enough liquid in brownie batter to dissolve large grains of salt. So, we had brownies with chunks of sea salt in them. Friend, Friend's husband, and Mr. X were all very nice about it, but I decided then and there that cooking (my cooking, anyway) should not be about impressing people.


allyouwhohope said...

That's a great story! I consider myself a good cook but I don't own many spices either, and I only bought a brush a few months ago and I'm sure it's not a good one!

Your cookies look AMAZING, by the way.

Jen said...

Those cookies look delicious! Now I want cookies and brownies.

This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

Lol, that is funny :) But your cookies look sooooo yummy... are those chocolate covered grains of sea salt? :P

I'm lucky, I can cook a little since my Mom's side is Italian (that's all they do)... but I also married a chef :) Whenever I need cooking advice, he's always there with some fancy schmancy new ingredient or recipe.

LifeHopes said...

that story was hilarious.

Jen said...

That story is hilarious! And the cookies look divine!


Made by Lena