Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don't And Won't: It's A Cooking Confessional At The Dept.(There Go My Pescetarian Readers)

Today's question deals with one of my favourite pastimes, cooking.  I love to cook, and I am a very intuitive cook, probably like so many of you.  Recipe requests are usually met with a sort of stunned expression;  most of the time, there simply isn't one, or if there is, I've long forgotten it and use no formal measurements anymore.  Just as often, what the person has just eaten is something I made up on the spot, based solely upon what I had on hand, what was fresh and lovely at the market or farmstand, or what I managed to salvage from what I thought it was going to be when I started out until things took a decidedly different turn for whatever reason.

Anyway, here we go:

Is there anything you don't or won't cook?

The short answer is yes and yes, but you know me:  I have to explain and qualify that answer.  Let's start with the Don't part.

Now that Jared and Sam are out on their own, I have to admit that I don't cook a Standard Dinner every night of the week anymore.  When I was doing The Mom Thing, every night I made sure we had a main dish of meat, a vegetable, a starch (potatoes, rice, noodles), and often, a tossed green salad with homemade dressing.  That's how I grew up, and that's what I knew to do.  Let me tell you, that deal is done with.

Dinners now, whenever I can manage it, are one-bowl affairs, which we love.  I cram all that stuff into a rice bowl, pasta toss, or steak salad or whatever.  One night, we had lemon orzo topped with a tossed salad and roasted shrimp, all drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette.  Very nice.

I also don't cook pork chops, pork steaks, or any kind of fish.  I don't like pork chops, Rick doesn't like pork steaks, (although each of us likes the opposite), and I loathe fish of all kinds.  ALL KINDS, AND YES, THAT DOES INCLUDE TILAPIA AND SALMON.  EVEN YOUR RECIPE SO NO, DON'T BOTHER TO SEND IT.  REALLY, THANKS. 

I desperately want to like fish.  I really do.  I have cooked it in the past (halibut, orange roughy, tilapia, salmon, swordfish), tried it at home and in restaurants, but simply do not like it one bit. You can imagine the reception Rick (who also dislikes salmon intensely) and I got on our Alaskan cruise, where they force-feed you salmon every hour.  Perhaps you don't know this, but salmon in Alaska are like cows in India.  They are sacred and symbolic; they are to Alaska what pandas are to China.  Those people in Alaska are all about their salmon.  Each time Rick and I refused salmon pate, smoked salmon, salmon jerky, salmon caviar, salmon butter, salmon cakes, and salmon sausage, it was as if we handed them a copy of a Communist Manifesto or told them we didn't believe in hunting or fishing.  My anathema toward fish has been nothing but trouble for me.

According to Jared and Sam, I don't cook anything that everyone likes a whole lot ever again.  I'm not sure how this--another Mom Legend--got started, but now, every time they come over and I make something they scarf down like pack animals, one will say, "Wow, Mom.  This is really good."  The other will then say, "Well.  You know what that means."  And they both will say, in perfect unison, usually with Their Father, "We'll never have it again."  Certainly it has its roots in ONE INCIDENT wherein I made something on the fly, they loved it, and then I couldn't or didn't duplicate it or forgot about it.  Big deal.  Are they alive or did they starve to death?  I rest my case.

Now, as far as what I Won't Cook, that part is easy.  Even when it comes right down to it, if Rick requested fish or pork chops, I'd cook them.  In the realm of Cooking, I can't think of anything I'd simply Not Cook. Having said that, I will say that I will refuse to Bake a couple of things because they are just too damn worky.  I should know; I made them once or twice and have vowed never again to put myself through it again.

Both of these Won't Bakes are cookies, and they are fussy cookies, which I detest greatly.  Cookies should be simple and delicious, not tedious and busy.  Look at the top three favourite homemade cookies, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal.  Are they labor intensive and nitpicky? No. But the two cooky recipes I have sworn off forever are:  date nut pinwheels and cream cheese kolachi (some may know it as kolacky, the little cookies with the corners folded in).  Both of these recipes made me want to slap someone. Were the cookies good once they were done?  Oh my, yes.  They were fantastic.  Were they worth the stress, frustration, profanity, and promises of revenge and retribution against the originators of the recipes?  I would say no.  (It must be said here that my sister Patti warned me off the date nut pinwheels in the most strenuous of terms.  I should have listened.  She is my rock, and she has never, ever led me astray.)

MsC. says she won't cook liver because she abhors it.  I love liver, absolutely love it.  But I don't cook it because I am the only one who would eat it.  I have a few sadnesses like that--liver, beets, heavy garlic, all things Rick does not care for.  I could eat vegetarian far more often than we do, but the man needs meat.  It's all a compromise, but that's an idea for yet another post.

I look forward to your comments and your Don't/Won't items in the Usual Place.

two choices
dead salmon
seal eating


  1. I am not much of a cook. It doesn't interest me & I have NO cooking intuition. In fact, I'd have to say that 99% of the times that I try something that seems like it would be good it's just not very. Mike is the real cook in the house.

  2. I love to cook, but I'm not terribly intuitive. I do better with a recipe, I'm sad to say. I may take your meme ideas and post on some of these myself, as I do seem to be in a bit of a blogstipation situation myself.

  3. Might want to avoid Norway. Talk about Salmon! 5 kinds of Salmon every meal with the red meat alternative being reindeer. We love Salmon, but several days before our 3 week trip was over no-more-salmon.

  4. Silliyak--Thanks for the heads-up. Mikey, my California host and a commenter here, is headed to Norway this spring. I'll pass that on. I also don't care much for venison; I'll eat it if it's served, but if I have a choice, I won't pick it.

    J.--What I love about the way you cook, though, is that you are not intimidated by a recipe. You think about what you're in the mood for, and you look up a recipe for it and try it. Cooking should be, in some ways, adventurous. There are so many great foods and preparations out there.

    Bug--I know a lot of people who don't care to cook. But I also know a lot of people who say that and are merely afraid to cook. In your case, as long as The Professor likes to cook, then you're set. But if you had to, you surely could follow a recipe and make something. You could start with Desserts In A Mug. Lots of recipes for those on the Interwebs.


  5. I was never a very good cook, Nance. In fact, my husband used to tell everyone that I had the only oven in the world that flushed.

    BUT.....Have I got a great Mackerel and Cod recipe for you!

  6. My mother was a product of the Betty Crocker, "Cream of Whatever Soup Casserole" generation. The only thing she ever made that did not come out of a can (with the exclusion of meat and lettuce) was bread, which we got once a year at Thanksgiving. During my college years, I was occasionally exposed to decent food in decent restaurants, and made the shocking discovery that mushrooms were not limited to the small grey cubes in Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. From then on, I became obsessed with Learning How to Cook. I started out with cookbooks, but soon moved on to experimenting on my own, with lots of tips from friends in Spain, which exposed me to an entirely different style of cooking which made use of the commonest ingredients cooked slowly and lovingly to produce magnificent flavours. I never measure anything unless it is for cake or pie baking, which I don't trust without at least trying the recommended amounts, and following instructions in a first-time recipe, since baking desserts is a different realm altogether. (Which reminds me: those pinwheel cookies are really pastry in my opinion, which is what puts them into the fussy category.)

    Mr. O. is, for the most part, a meat-and-potatoes person, although, thanks to him, I can now make really awesome enchiladas en salsa verde, as well as a few other dishes I might not ever have attempted. Unlike you, I do like fish, and eat more and more of it in lieu of red meat, as I find it easier to digest, but that's just me and my funny tummy.

    Don't or won't:

    —I don't make very many fussy desserts because I don't have the time to devote to the amount of precision required for them to turn out right, and also because it is just the two of us, and a lot would have to be pitched out before it got consumed.

    —I won't make anything that requires ingredients from a can (except tuna fish for sandwiches) because all I got growing up was .... stuff that came out of a can! (I also won't make cheese soufflé because there are too many quirky things that can go wrong, and even if served piping hot in the perfect stage of puffiness... it doesn't really taste that great, IMHO.)

  7. Ortizzle--I remember us commenting back and forth about the Spanish method of cooking you describe above. Rick's mom was a true Fifties housewife who embraced Kraft Foods recipes and canned condensed soups and all that. Her cooking was notoriously awful. I never saw brown cauliflower in my life except when I had to try and eat it at her house. And it had been boiled! Terrifying.
    I like the European model for dessert: buy it. Bakeries do all the fussy stuff, so why should I?

    Nancy--Oh, thanks. Send it over. I can click delete on that just as fast as the emails from "Ashley Madison", Canadian Pharmacy, and, the latter filling up my inbox incessantly lately. Not sure why. I'm not black, I'm not on the market, and I don't want to meet anyone at present.

  8. I'm a much better baker than cook, but I do not cook fish either. I do like a few types of fish, but I only eat them in restaurants.

  9. Gina--My brother loves fish. He also loves TO fish, and he cleans and brings home his catch. He won't allow any fish to be cooked in his house, so year round, he fires up his outdoor grill and makes them out there.

    Rick claims he likes fish, too, but he never orders it in a restaurant. Same with Jared. Confusing.

    I love to cook, and I'm a good baker. I just don't eat much of what I bake. Then Rick feels like he has to eat almost an entire cake or all the cookies. Not ideal.

  10. Well Nance, you know I love to cook and bake. Seafood is a huge part of what I eat, but I have cut out most large fish. With all the mercury, it was making me nervous. Sardines are a favorite of mine though. I know. Shocking!! I agree with you about the difficult cookies. Most of my standby recipes are very simple.

  11. Lisa--Oh, I used to eat sardines with my Uncle Julius. He was always astounded that I liked them as much as he did. We ate them on saltines. I've been thinking a lot about shortbread lately. I bought a little box of Walker's, and it was so incredibly buttery and delicious that I decided I couldn't live without more shortbread in my life. It seems an easy enough cooky to make, so I think I'm going to try. I like the idea of lemon or orange shortbread, just the zest in the dough for a little zing of flavor. Have you ever made it?

  12. We're on the same wavelength! I love a good shortbread cookie too. Here's a single serving recipe from the blog.

  13. I'm a very intuitive cook as well and I love cooking that way for us, but if there's company hanging around me while I'm thinking that often messes me up. I'm not one to converse in my kitchen while throwing things together. Throw in a glass of wine and I'm really toast. ;-)

    Gosh, I love shortbread! Shortbread and a cup of tea--pure heaven!

  14. Lisa--Thanks! Sounds like a winner.

    Shirley--When he was little, Sam was my constant companion as I cooked dinner. He liked to sit on the counter and talk about his day at school or family stuff or really anything at all. I cannot express to you how much I miss that. His little face was always so earnest, his huge blue eyes so sincere...I'm so glad we had that time together every single day.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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