Growing up, my mother ushered my sisters and me out of the kitchen while she cooked our meals and ushered us back in when it was time to clean up. Needless to say, I became an adult with no idea how to cook or even the desire to try.
Until, I guess, now.
It started with a lot of leftovers and the search for more protein in my diet. I’m a vegetarian, so I’m always in search of protein. So a couple of years ago or so I started throwing together what I would call “Egg White Omelettes,” which seemed pretty accurate. I cooked egg whites and threw in whatever leftovers I had. Vegetables, of course, but also veggie burgers, french fries…absolutely anything, really. I figured out if I liked everything I put in individually, I also liked whatever mixture they made together.
The next major step was trying to figure out what to do with all the butternut squash my brother gave me this summer from his garden. (For the record, I don’t care if I cook a whole butternut squash again in my life. I’ll gladly use the ones already peeled and chopped up in the produce aisle.) When I finally got to the last of the squash leftovers, I decided I didn’t have anything to lose. I added egg whites and taco shells and cornmeal and breadcrumbs and mushed up my own butternut squash veggie burgers. They tasted good fried up with potatoes or a vegetable, and I started feeling pretty satisfied with myself.
Fast forward to last night. I’m currently on a mission to use up stuff from the freezer and cupboards that have been collecting dust for too long. (Don’t ask me how long; I won’t tell you.) I had leftover mashed potatoes and wanted to make some noodles to put on top (something we did growing up; not sure if that’s a thing for everybody or just us), but when I got in the cupboard I was a little disappointed we didn’t have any. But scrounging around, I did find some old lasagna noodles. (Don’t ask me how old; I won’t tell you.) I thought maybe I could make some pierogi lasagna and sat down with the internet to find out how. Turns out you need a lot of stuff I didn’t have in the house. But as I looked through the fridge, I found some things we did have, and that I liked the taste of on their own…
So I cooked up the lasagna noodles and layered a pan with the mashed potatoes and slices of polenta and veggie mozzarella shreds and garlic and onion and noodles and topped it with seasoned salt and Italian Seasoning and parsley flakes and oregano and sage and thyme and breadcrumbs and covered it and baked it on 350 for 40 minutes and uncovered it and baked it for 20 more and I can’t tell you how delicious that little concoction turned out to be!
And as if that wasn’t enough, my husband bought me donut baking pans for my birthday, and I’ve baked a couple dozen three-ingredient pumpkin donuts that were also delicious (using up old pumpkin and cake mixes and pumpkin spice and powdered sugar and vanilla from the cupboard, don’t ask me how old; I won’t tell you). But when I baked them tonight and went to measure out the powdered sugar, I realized pretty quickly there wasn’t enough left. But since the internet knows everything, I found out how to make my own powdered sugar ,and I swear it actually worked.
As I cleaned up the dishes from tonight’s pumpkin project, I kept hearing Nixon’s voice in my head, “Because people have got to know whether or not their president is a cook. Well, I’m not a cook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”
He said “cook,” right?
Maybe teaching yourself how to cook feels a little more rewarding than having someone teach you. Being an artist and ready to experiment doesn’t hurt. And working through the trial and error on my own makes me feel like I’ve earned everything I’ve got, too.