Monday, June 15, 2009

Culinary Discoveries

no offense mom! but I think I can safely say that I entered adulthood lacking a very important domestic skill... how to cook well.

Sure, I do know how to feed and fend for myself. Last year I survived on my own. I admit, I ate most my meals at the camp where I worked. It was very convenient to have a full-throttle kitchen and dining hall staff heaping my plates full of food; albeit, camp cafeteria food. (Actually, Sky Ranch has some pretty stellar meals... Holla for Mexican food night!)

But when it came to me cooking in the kitchen... all I really did was... eat salad... open a can of tuna... heat up some Campbell soup... or boil some spaghetti. That is pretty much... the extent of my kitchen prowess.

Let's face it: when you mother is a pediatric anesthesiologist she is much more adept at life-saving meticulous surgery on an infant ... than combining ingredients to make a great casserole. And when your dad is a cop: no one wants to break into a crack house and then turn around to make dinner an hour later.

Although Dad did cook often. Somewhat fitting his profession he enjoys hunting. So Dad always grilled up venison steak. We ate a ton of deer steak growing up. We would joke around the table... " We love deer. They're delicious!" I heard later in life that venison steak is actually one of the healthiest meats for human digestion. You get more protein for your bite and less fat. Beef steak was somewhat unknown to me. How was I to know that deer steak is leaner, thinner, and drier in comparison. (Although, to this day I still prefer deer steak.)

Marinade? What was a marinade? I did not know you could soak meats in delicious concoctions and make them taste better? Besides when Dad was grilling, we let him be.

And so I was never apprenticed in the ways of the kitchen... until now.

Here at Camp of the Peaks... we live at more of a French pace which includes longer mealtimes. If you've seen the cartoon movie "Flushed Away" there is an antagonist French frog character. This frog jumps up in his beret and says something like "let's go!" His fellow French amphibians ask, "what about lunch?" Their leader repeats himself..."let's 5 hours!"

Well, with all this emphasis on food. I felt a little inept in the kitchen arena. Fortunately, I have Gwen. Gwen is a sprightly, beautiful, girl from Charrrrrelston, South Carolina (you have to draw out your "charrrle" so you can say it like a real southern belle.) She is a co-missionary and our camp cook!

She loves to cook and bake. She is mightily good at it. You would never imagine such a tiny person cooking for 100 French teenagers, but she does! with pizazz.

She has graced me with her cooking knowledge and is giving me her recipies. She is coaching me through her dishes and teaching me how to cook!

At first, I had no real inkling to learn this task that seemed so ardurous! Yet, slowly, over time, I am being weaned into loving the amazing food produced here in France. My old appetite for easy-made noodles has long ago started to wain. I can no longer bear to eat easy-made fast stuff. New nutrition information has steered me far from sickining corn starches and syrups. I want to eat healthy. I realize that in order to eat healthy... I can't cut corners. I actually need to know how to cook. Make things myself.... and oh horror! ... make them from scratch!

It all started when our apples started to go bad... (did I mention that there are less prespervatives in everything here... everything is served fresh... and doesn't last forever... and this makes things a little difficult because we live on a mountainside. We can't make it to the grocery store everyday like most French do. They usually buy their bread fresh every day! It is really good bread too...) ANYWAY... our apples were slightly old and we wanted to save them. So Gwen taught me how to make an apple crisp dessert that used the soft apples.

Then she taught me how to make... ginger snaps, alfredo sauce, potato soup, cuccumber pasta, and tonight she is teaching me how to make home-made pasta sauce. Tomorrow: freshly baked muffins.

and I... I... really like cooking. The food tastes so unbelievable! Blandness begone! I want to go... and cook more things!

and all I can say is that France and food go together like... peas and carrots? .... voila!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! I have always enjoyed cooking and in the states everyone always told me I was a great cook. But once we moved to France, all the sudden I'm not that great of a cook. They make homemade sauces almost everyday and can make things that I have attempted once or twice with no success. It is a country that is in love with its food, and I love it. By the way, hi, nice too reconnect with you, glad to hear you are in France too, we should meet up some time, blah, blah, blah, I know you and Sarah are talking about it so I'll leave you two to the planning. Our blog is