Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cultivating the Culinary Arts

Do you enjoy cooking? I certainly do! What is it about the yumminess of a melt-in-your-mouth dessert or the warmth and sustenance of a homemade meal that is so wonderful? What is it about cooking that makes us feel so happy and fulfilled? It's as if there's some "happy hormone" that gets released in us women as we stand over a stove or bake things in the oven. =) It can truly be a stress-reliever and a pick-me-up when you put yourself into making delicious food.

Yes, I know that not everyone feels this way. I myself don't always feel very enthused at the thought of making yet another meal. Coming home to an already-made meal on Tuesdays after a long dance class is such a relief! There are days when I am tired or just not in the mood to cook. Yet, for the most part, I usually really enjoy pursuing the culinary arts.

Cooking truly is an art. Some may dismiss it as a worthless effort and waste of time, since these days you can buy just about anything pre-made and ready to pop in the oven or microwave. Those definitely have their place, but the joy of eating delicious, wholesome, homemade food drastically outweighs the benefits of easy, frozen, packaged meals. Homemade food simply tastes better! It is an art to learn which foods tastes better with which side dishes. It's an art to learn to make a many-colored meal, pleasing to the eye and teh taste buds. It's an art to broil, bake, or boil this to perfection (which, by the way, I rarely accomplish. But, I'm learning!). Time is the kitchen is usually time well spent!

When I was little, I enjoyed helping my older sister Miriam (then the head cook) make meals. I didn't spend great amounts of time in the kitchen, though, for I was often busy playing with my siblings or mothering my dolls. However, I did enjoy what time I did spend helping! When I was around 8, I made cookies completely on my own. It was my very first attempt at cooking alone, and they were frankly.... awful. Somehow I mixed up the abbreviations in the cookbook, and put Tablespoons of salt, baking powder, and soda, instead of teaspoons! My dear daddy attempted to eat them for my sake, but finally we threw them out. Even the dog didn't want them! Although disappointing, I didn't let it discourage me altogether, and continued to train under the helping hands of Miriam or my Mother. Although I've made plenty of mistakes since then, they haven't been quite as bad as the first.

When I was 14, I completely took over the preparation and planning of the household meals, at least for most of them. I savored the delectable taste of homemade food, and realized that for there to be more of them on the table, I was going to have to make them. I was unsure at first if I'd really be able to make time to cook an hour or more a day, but with practice, it soon became a part of my routine. Now, 2 1/2 years later, I'm still doing it and enjoying almost every moment! =)

In the spring of 2006, I began to make bread on a regular basis. Noticing how much my family enjoyed the fresh-baked bread from a bakery we stopped at on a trip, I purposed to make it regularly for them to enjoy. I again struggled with whether I'd really have time to make the majority of our bread for the household, but yet again learned to fit it into my day. Making it almost the first thing in the morning helps me get it done and also permeates the house with a wonderful perfume! Because of the smallness of our household now, one big batch usually lasts about a week. It hasn't all gone smoothly; I've had trouble with the whisper mill, had my bread fall (and discovered an excellent bread help!) and have had to search for a good recipe. It's all been worth it in the end!

I've not gone without failures. My poor family has had to suffer through some pretty, *ahem* interesting food. They've been wonderful, however, eating them without complaining - except maybe when I try to make the desserts a little too healthy! =) Even when I greatly dislike the food I've made, they'll usually still at least attempt to eat it. I've had new recipes that I've tried flop, which puts a damper of everything. Yet, the successes outweigh the failures.

It's the joy of putting wholesome, delicious food on the table that makes me keep going. Whether it be a more elaborate meal, like the cornflake chicken, scalloped potatoes, fresh veggies, and French bread that we had last night, or a more simple meal easily prepared, I enjoy watching my family enjoy the food. Oh - and it sure helps that it usually tastes pretty good as well! The delight of finding a flavorful new recipe (like the oatmeal cake I made last night) makes me feel so happy! It's the little things that make the difference.

Also, the knowledge that what I do now is helping me prepare for the future gives me perseverance. When I'm despairing over a not-so-good recipe or burnt food, daddy sometimes reminds me that my future husband will appreciate the fact that I've learned to cook. "It's better to practice on us, your family," my dear papa says, "so that you'll be a good cook for your husband one day!" That usually succeeds in putting a smile on my face and a spring in my step. My future husband will have a lot to thank my family for - the years of experiment meals!

And, ah yes, there's always a downside to preparing loads of delectable dishes - the hug pile of pots and pans left to wash up. Yet, even this can be fun and have its benefits. After all, a sink full of hot, soapy water is just what your hands need on a cold day. Put a CD on and sing along, and pretty soon the pile of dirty dishes turns into a stack of sparkling dishes, and you have a sense of accomplishment in working the transformation.

Are you inspired to begin to cultivate the culinary arts yet? They really are a joy to learn, and a blessing to others as they eat the benefits. Cooking is really a labor of love. I'm sure your mother or sister would enjoy helping you learn, and they'd certainly appreciate it when you cook dinner and give them a day off. There's no end to the gifts of baked goods you can make to friends and neighbors, and they're always appreciated! Slip an apron on, set to work, and experience the delight!


Lydia said...

Hey Anna!
Your post makes my mouth water, as it reminds me of homemade food! :-)
You make a good point about the value of learning to cook!

Ella said...

Anna, Mom and I just entered into a cookbook club and the books arrived today. I love to cook, and I am slowly taking over. Thankfully, I haven't had too many flops (unless I mention the time I tried to make lemon curd and I had butter popping and going all over the place:-)

Luke said...

Speaking of baking...could you email me the recipe for gingerbread cookies? :)
We should think about publishing all of the Lofgren recipes! Share the YUM with the world!! :)


Anna Naomi said...

I'll go do that - and I am beginning to put the Lofgren Favorite's up on my website. I just haven't completed them yet.

frazzledsister said...

I too enjoy cooking, but I find it takes self control to not taste the food too much and thus add a few extra pounds throughout the years!

Robert said...

I enjoyed that post.Those pies look yummy! I liked your father's quote about practicing on your family so you will be a good cook for your husband.Since you do most of the cooking,hopefully you don't have to do the dishes too.

Mrs. S said...

Hello there! I discovered your blog and have really enjoyed reading it. It is wonderful that you sisters are cultivating your homemaking skills now. Your future husbands will be blessed!

Anna Naomi said...

Lydia, just wait until you get home, and you'll get some of the homemade food. =)

Ella, That's really neat that you're able to join a cookbook club. New recipes are always fun to find!

Emily, actually for some weird reason, when I'm cooking I don't have much of an appetite to taste what I'm making. Weird, I know. But with some things, I just can't resist! =)

Robert, actually all of my siblings and I have had turns for dishes since we were around 6 years old. It used to be for every meal, but now we do day turns. Since I only have one other sister left at home, I do dishes every other day.

Mrs. S, thanks for the comment! I'm glad you found our blog.

Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

I have been trying to do more cooking for my family. It is so fulfilling, and I have found some great recipes!

Maria Pauline said...

Although I do cook, I don't very often. I've been doing more baking lately. The only disaster I can remember is when I was converting the baking powder measurements. My mother doubled it, then I mistakenly doubled the amount she told me. The biscuits on the dish didn't taste good. That was a long time ago though.

My mother almost always cooks, when she doesn't bake bread, I do, as I can't stand store-bought bread!

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Heather said...


I have been reading over your cooking post. I have recently started making homemade bread for my family also. I make pumpkin bread. My husband is on a very strict diet and I love to cook healthy. Do you have any recipes that you could suggest that would meet these guidlines.
No tomatoe, or anything thats to acidic, no cheese, no caffiene, or anything really high in fat he is trying to lose wieght also.
My girls and I also love to bake. Since we can't bake to many sweets right now. I do it anyway some and he just avoids it or only has a little. I don't want to temp him and make it to hard for him though. His birthday was yesterday and I couldn't think of anything sweet and healthy enough.

Anna Naomi said...

Heather: I'm sorry, I don't think I have recipes for you. None of my family members have had restrictive diets, so I don't have any recipes for them. However, if you search the internet, you'll hopefully be able to find some. I hope you do!