My mother was an awesome cook. She could pull a few cans out of the cupboard, meat from the freezer, and a few fresh ingredients and whip up a delicious dinner -- even the nights Staci and I would look in the cupboard and complain "there's nothing to eat!" Mom should have been the queen of semi-homemade instead of Sandra Lee.
I guess cooking isn't one of those hereditary things. When Joe and I first married, I didn't know the first thing about stocking shelves. Every time I'd want to try a recipe, I'd have to go the grocery store to buy every single ingredient on the list, and often many of the "tools" too. Needless to say, I didn't often try recipes.
Instead we ate a lot of grilled meat, baked potatoes, always with a canned veggie. In the winter when it was tougher to grill, we ate scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup, and any flavor Hamburger Helper. In retrospect, it's not hard to figure out why Adam doesn't care for food.
Gradually I discovered what we should keep on hand. My spice and tool collection grew. I got bored with boxes and cans. Even better, Jakob came to live at our house. Jakob savors his meals. For the first time, I lived with someone for whom food wasn't just fuel, but something to be relished. His favorite food as a toddler was green beans. He would keep stuffing them in his mouth until his cheeks were stuffed.
My first and best recipes were from mom's collection -- spaghetti, chili, tatertot hotdish, goulash. I kept making those dishes until discovering Joe doesn't like pasta or tomatoes. Of course, those dishes are on Jakob's list of favorites.
A decade ago (or so), I started watching the Food Network. My first loves were The Barefoot Contessa and Emeril -- neither of whom create overly simple dishes! I watched them all over the years -- Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, Paula Deen -- and I fell deeply in love with creating beautiful, simple, and tasty food to nourish people I love.
I no longer blush when I call myself a "cook" but I never claim to be a baker. I cook. There's too much precision in baking for me to enjoy it.
Though I rarely use recipes anymore, when I do it's most often for new ideas. There's a downside: I have a hard time replicating favorite recipes. My spaghetti sauce is the perfect example. My little spaghetti connoisseur and I have a rating system based on how much he eats and his groaned "this is the best spaghetti ever!" comment. So far, I haven't regressed. It just keeps getting better and better. Or he's just really hungry.
My friend, Scott, told me he'd like a batch of my homemade stuffing for his birthday. He thought it was the best stuffing ever. The problem: I have no idea how I made the stuffing he ate. I was smart enough to go home that May night and write myself a post-it note:
I hope that's "recipe" enough to do the trick.