Thursday, August 23, 2012


Taking the time to eat a meal is something we have to do every few hours. It may not always be a good meal, but it has to happen. But what about the time it takes to make a meal? And if you're inclined to put in the time and effort in the first place, shouldn't it be a good meal?

Lately I've struggled with both taking and making time and meals. I don't know if it's just been the usual reasons -- stress, busy lives, tight budget -- or a more undefined, general lack of interest in standing in the kitchen for hours at a time. Whatever the reason, I avoided the stove rather a lot lately... and I'm not proud. A coffee cake here, and put of rice there, and I felt I'd somehow done enough. So last night, I put a little more effort into dinner, and I'm glad I did. It was good to be home again.

The dinner wasn't anything new, groundbreaking, or fancy, but it was exactly what I needed to remind myself that I enjoy cooking (most of the time) and that my skills aren't really all that bad. I learned to be a drill sergeant about timing from my mother, and that ability has been vital to the success of my meals. I made a basic onion-roasted potato dish, simple chicken breast, and indulged in a rare baking of my mother's special secret Thanksgiving Rolls. But aside from the taste of good home cookin', the real success was that I did it.

Before I began, I ran through all the recipes in my head. I did a quick calculation for the timing and when we wanted to eat, tied on my apron, and had my mise en place in perfect order.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Camp Cookin'

I have always been a lover of the outdoors, thanks to enthusiastic parents who filled much of my childhood with active, nature-oriented pursuits. Among the best memories of my time spent in the elements are the frequent camping trips, including a particularly lengthy trip from home to Nashville, TN and back -- camping all the way. My mother and I became expert camp surveyors, excavators, and of course, chefs (nothing gets you more hungry than setting up a tent, canopy, and other camping accoutrements in less than ten minutes flat). So I watched and learned as she deftly manipulated a much-abused Coleman stove, tiny pots, plastic implements, and a dash of salt into edible and unbelievably delicious meals. It was magical then, and now that I've taken on the same role for trips with J, I understand the mutterings and occasional curses she uttered in order to get those meals on our table.

My own attempts at such meals aren't always a success, but lately I haven't had many failures  -- I must be getting better. In between the easy stuff (read: boiling water for coffee and sizzling butter for shake-and-pour pancakes) I've somehow managed to nearly perfect the art of stovetop juicy chicken and decent rice pilaf. Nothing fancy, but satisfying nonetheless. As proof, I offer this: