You Want to Cook?

You Want to Cook?
                It was early 2006, and I had just moved into a new townhome in Raleigh, not far from Cameron Village. The place was owned by a friend of mine from college, whom I had met when I was a sophomore at Wake Forest, and she was a freshman from Raleigh. Susie, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, has a twin sister Stella who lives now in Greensboro, North Carolina. The two of them, through a corporation set up by their late father, own the townhome, and knowing I was looking for some place new to live, offered it to me.
                During the first visit, I turned on the lights to see if the power was on, and that everything worked. All was fine but the stove. I turned every knob and pushed every button…and nothing. So I emailed Susie and told her the stove didn’t work. Her response was immediate. “You want to cook? Jim, I have known you since I was seventeen years old, and I know you can’t cook. So why do you care if the stove doesn’t work”?
                Of course, the problem was simple. The power switch was in a different location from all the others, and it was off. It took someone professional to tell me that.
                Fast forward five years. I am still here and still learning how to cook. I have learned what vegetable oil is and where to find it at the grocery store. I have learned the word “sauté”, but wonder why they don’t just say “cook and stir quickly in a pan”? I have some successes, such as lemon chicken, a great recipe sent to me from California years ago by my daughter Stacy. Of course the only thing lemon about it is that you squirt some on it at the very end. 
                Then, there were the failures.
                The first time I ever tried ribs on the grill that is what I did. No one ever said put them first in the oven. I still remember I had never seen that color of black when I took them off the grill. It is always awkward to eat something that looks bad, tastes the same way, and still try to pretend how good it is and only needs a bit of tweaking. What it needed was being thrown away.
                  So I bought a cook book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Even though I am no longer a small child, I still like books with lots of pictures in them, and this book has them every step of the way. Cook books with pictures will make you smile.
                Then there was the movie “Julia & Julia”. Julia (the other one) kept making Boeuf Bourguignon like it was nothing. So I thought, how hard can this be? Well…it took most of Saturday to buy a Dutch oven that was less than $70.00.  Then, after reading the recipe directions via Google, I saw there were 45 steps to it.
                Step 1 read “First prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve”. I had no idea what any of this meant. But then Step 2 said in part “Cut the bacon into lardons”.  Step 3 called for “Simmer the rind and the lardons for ten minutes”, and Step 4 said “Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve”. Mercifully, Step 5 read “Pre-heat the oven to 450 F”.
                There were still 40 steps left. One day later, it was done, and so was I. While this recipe is very good, I would not recommend it for the fainthearted.
                 I am still learning which is the real reason for this new blog. Last Sunday a friend of mine called mid afternoon and said she was thinking of having some folks to her house and cook vegetables and have some wine for a few friends.  She specifically mentioned squash casserole. Just as I was getting ready to say “I can be there”, she told me she had decided not to do it at all.
                Have you ever had some food idea on your mind and can’t get rid of it? That has been me all week. I have just been thinking how good squash casserole would be. But how to do it? Where can I find a recipe? The Pioneer Woman didn’t help too much but on Google, I found Paula Dean. But her recipe calls for both squash and zucchini. This troubled me, so at lunch on Sunday, I asked another friend, who was treating me at Winston’s, why would you use zucchini for squash casserole? “Jim, zucchini is squash…it just isn’t yellow. You can use zucchini. It will still be squash casserole”. 
                The adventure continues.

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