Cooking · Dining · Food

Kitchen Adventures – How They Change

I’ve been cooking for over 5 decades.

That’s quite a statement, I know. When I contemplate it, I won’t lie to you, it is more than a bit astounding.

So many things have changed over the years. When I first began my kitchen adventures, my mother started me out with small tasks which led to simple meals which led to me being in charge of dinner for the family each and every night.

It did not hurt that my mom was a great cook and a great teacher. It also didn’t hurt that I enjoyed the end product of my efforts, too! LOL!

As I look back, I can see many things have changed over time. For instance I remember coming across a recipe in a magazine for tuna fritters that were deep fried. It was easy, tasty, and everyone loved it. Not bad for a 12 year old, right?

I came across that recipe recently and was tempted to try it again, but without the deep fat fryer as I no longer own one. Turns out, the recipe works well fried in a skillet with minimal oil.

My dad was a ‘meat and potatoes’ man. As a farmer, he worked long, hard hours and needed good hearty food to keep going. Our meals reflected that need, and to be honest, those tastes. Now, however, I find my preparation methods have changed even though I still love a good potato along with a good roast or steak or burger. Or, more likely, a good piece of chicken or pork.

Back then salmon came in a can unless you lived near a coast where fishing was prevalent. This is something that confuses so many today as food is moved around much more efficiently.

I still enjoy salmon but prefer it grilled rather than in a croquette. Although, a good croquette is nothing to sneeze at, either. LOL!

The thing is that food changes, evolves, updates simply because people shift, move about, change tastes, learn more. It is actually more fluid than you might think. Many of the favorites we grew up with evolved from recipes that moved with people as they moved from one country to another, from one area to another.

As growing and harvesting processes have improved, so, too, have transportation processes making availability easier and much less expensive. The downside to that is the customer might tend to look for fancier foreign foods rather than take advantage of locally grown items. This not only enlarges the carbon footprint, but has negative affects on local farming.

We need to support our local farmers. Period.

Food choices continue to evolve for a variety of reasons. Frankly, I applaud efforts to learn more. Dependence on certain foods can have major impact in areas we don’t always recognize, let alone acknowledge. Health benefits, too, have a major impact of consumption. That, too, is worth paying attention to.

There will always be food fads. Some are worth exploring and experimenting. Many will fall by the wayside.

For a long time I wanted to be one of those cooks who always had a kitchen garden. Trouble was, I never had space for, knew how to care for, or even had time for a kitchen garden. Definitely not a win/win for me!

I’ve come to terms with the reality of age, ability, desire, and willingness when it comes to tackling ‘projects’. As a result, I prefer dried garlic rather than fresh because even though the flavor is different fresh garlic won’t last long enough to be used in my kitchen. Trust me, I know. Ditto for fresh herbs.

Basically, it comes down to picking my battles.

These days I depend upon things that I can put into my oven or slow cooker. I love a good casserole and won’t object to left overs. Sometimes those left overs are better the second (or third) time around! And did I mention they save me time?

If you are new to the world of home cooking and a bit apprehensive, take my advice, start slow. Make the time to make a list of what you like to eat and find out how to make it yourself. Hey, those restaurant recipes had to come from somewhere! Give yourself room to make mistakes and to fail. Everyone does at one time or other. That ‘fail’ might actually be an unexpected success.

Remember that tuna fritter recipe I mentioned? I played with it a bit and after a few tries, I found a way to make it using a biscuit mix and you know what? After a while it was as good as the original recipe. And that was before I tried making it without a deep fat fryer.

That’s another thing, learn to play with your food. Really! Think about the flavors you love and learn to incorporate them into different foods. It is astounding to discover how many recipes use ranch dressing or dressing mix.

Whatever your cooking and/or eating style enjoy yourself. A good meal is a great gift not only to friends and family but to yourself.

Happy Cooking!

Jacques Pepin