finally cooking

I grew up cooking not much more than toast. What a privilege to just have food around when I was hungry, but a missed opportunity to help my mother in the kitchen and develop vital skills. As a result, I basically avoided cooking for myself until living alone in my 20s.

In 2014 I became fed up feeling powerless, so I tried 'learning to cook' with my project Cooked August. Technically, I followed almost a hundred recipes in that month (trying for three a day), but didn't end up feeling confident in my abilities.

My friend Judy, who is a great cook and owns a restaurant, suggested I simply stock up on things I like and taste as many ingredients as possible: "Take a carrot and just bite it". This helped me realize I was preparing dishes but never really tasting the food, only to get a sense for the result while sitting down to eat; I wonder now whether years of mostly being served meals at home and at restaurants left me with a concept of 'food is what shows up'.

After returning from my first long solo travel of about 6 months in 2018, I was a bit drained and only had energy to make sandwiches and salads, but I took Judy's advice and experimented with various fresh vegetables in there, combining and tasting them in different permutations. Doing this for a while helped me start developing a relationship with ingredients that I can't describe, but feels like knowing more about what I like.

Feeling more confident, I branched out into oatmeal as it was something I liked to cook and eat every morning. Syrup, fruits, and sweet were getting a bit boring so I started to experiment with savoury flavours, vegetables, spices, and cheese; I first got turned onto this from Leanne Brown's Good and Cheap where she had an oats recipe suggesting to 'throw a fried egg on top'. Through this process I arrived at my signature Poor Man's Risotto, which most people have never had but seem to love. My greatest accolade was making it in Colombia for half a dozen friends of my friend who hosted me, among which was a Peruvian chef who asked for seconds and vowed to steal it! Another fond memory was cooking it for my friend from Berlin and her son; a year later I reached out to share some travel photos and her son asked 'is that the chef'?

I'm still working on my skills and would like to actually learn 'the rules' but I feel good about my progress so far and that other people can enjoy my food.

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