I have always had a passion for cooking and entertaining. It was probably the early eighties, Martha Stewart just launched her first cookbook “Entertaining”, and I was hooked. I went from thinking about great recipes, gardening and entertaining to having no fear to actually do all of the above.
When we bought our house in 1982, I quickly learned to garden. Our house had literally no landscaping and figured I’d better figure it out if I wanted a pretty landscaped lot. Luckily, I love gardening so it wasn’t hard to put into action what I’ve been reading about.
I have had so many gardens on my property I would be spreading 25 yards or so of mulch by hand (yes, literally by hand). There is something about spreading the mulch around your plants and the beautiful smell of mulch.
Tending to all of these gardens have given experience like non other. I had a circular rose garden with pathways around it and located up in the back of the yard near the woods. Then I quickly saw that something was eating my roses. Withing a couple days all of the roses were eaten and only the stick remains. That was the end of that. I love wisteria, so decided to grow some so it could go up and around my white PVC garden arbor. Withing a couple years the trunk on the wisteria were at least an inch thick. The wisteria literally started cracking the PVC arbor. Lesson learned…be carefully where you plant this gorgeous but overtaking plant! One year I planted at least 50 or so irises I bought from mail order. Do you know to this day I can only see a couple?
Over the years I have had plenty of experience gardening. I still garden to this day but have filled in a lot of those gardens and opted for grass. My back, knees and quite frankly, my body can’t take all that bending any more. But I haven’t lost my passion for gardening.
These days I opt for less back breaking chores. I plant daylilies and Stella Doro mini lilies everywhere. I try to get ones that vary in color, have different bloom times, and some are reblooming. They are dependable, the animals don’t bother them and come up faithfully every year and bloom beautifully. They die down to the ground so in the fall, you just remove the dead leaves and you are ready for the spring. Lilies are perfect for the beginner gardener as they take nothing to grow and make your property look beautiful. The older I get, the more lilies I am going to plant. Every year I search the nurseries on the internet for a different and new variety. I plant tomatoes in containers. I get more tomatoes than I need. I plant loads of herbs in the herb garden. There is nothing like going outside to pick what you need for a recipe.
My Mom was a great cook (she wouldn’t admit it, though). Being from the Depression era, she learned to make delicious meals out of the simplest ingredients, as her mother did. I make those same meals to this day.
My Mom was an expert cake decorator, and insisted on teaching me the art of cake decoration. I don’t do much with it these days, but just like riding a bike, you never forget it.
She was an excellent quilt maker and taught me how to sew. I made some of my own clothes. Again, something you never forget.
She was a girl scout leader for 30 years. I went to girl scout camp for many years and learned there is nothing one can’t do if you try.
I still have a passion for cooking and gardening. I have herb gardens right outside my back door and right next to my outside kitchen. Cooking outside or in, my herbs are ready to go at least in the seasonal months (in December my Rosemary and thyme are still green)… and I’m in the Northeast! I got a Viking professional home range in 1990 for $6500. It has a char grille which I used several times a week to this day. I wouldn’t think of buying another range without it.
These days, I enjoy chefs or home cooks that are passionate for cooking. I am not a trained chef with a degree. I have learned everything I know from my Mom, cookbooks, chefs, and most importantly…trial and error. Cooking is like a science. Once you learn what different ingredients do in a recipe is key. Once you learn that the process of making a soup is always the same, or mixing the ingredients for a baked recipe is always the same, you will be able to be more adventurous.
I have learned the method of creating a recipe is just as important as the ingredients. As an example, when making a pasta or potato salad, I always put the pasta or potatoes on a tray to “cool and dry” slightly. That way, the mayonnaise or dressing sticks to the ingredients much better that if you threw the wet or rinsed ingredients in a bowl. You always end up with a sloppy mess when you do that. I have learned that there are secret ingredients in recipes that make or break those recipes. Like my potato salad.
Get out of your comfort zone and try recipes with ingredients you may not otherwise try. As an example, recently I saw a recipe for Sausages with Fennel and Grapes. If I saw this recipe in print, I wouldn’t have made it. But I saw chef Anna Rossi making it on her Chef’s Pantry show, and I knew I just She is so energetic about cooking, it literally makes you want to get up and start doing. This recipe was one of the best recipes I have ever made! What a dynamite combination! Grapes, fennel, onions, sausages, red wine, balsamic, thyme and rosemary fresh from the garden. Delicious. And her passion and expression for cooking is phenomenal.
Of course, these are just my opinions, everyone loves different foods made different ways. That’s the beauty of enjoying food and cooking. There is no end.
As you can see, I’m just a home cook that enjoys trying to top off my last recipe one day at a time. It’s my hobby, it’s my passion.