Last week, I attempted something that I rarely do. I used a recipe. Two of them actually. I even used measuring cups, spoons and a scale. And I barely cheated at all.
You see it was the first anniversary of the death of Cookie Monster’s wife. I volunteered to do a dinner party in her honor for Him and a couple of their friends. One of the things I wanted to do for Him was to cook some of her old favorites. And that meant pulling out the 3-ring binder with the tattered and yellowed pages, some with her writing on them.
Now you have to understand something about me and cooking…I don’t use recipes. And even if I do…I change them. One of my early successes with Cookie and this group of their friends was His birthday party right after we moved up here with him. I made an elaborate menu with four starters, a main and Mississippi Mud cake for dessert.
One of those starters that everyone LOVED was Swedish meatballs. I had never made them before and had only ever eaten the ones you get in a vac bag from Ikea. So of course I needed a recipe. Well, two actually. I blended them using the instructions for how to make them from one and the spices from another. No one could get enough of them. And I have repeated that success a couple of times since then. It has become a go-to fav.
But this time…it was about doing things the way ‘she’ did…making her recipes her way…so that the food looked and tasted the way He remembered it. And since I had never eaten her cooking, the only way to do that was by following the recipes as closely as I could. (I did have to make a couple of substitutions for things I could not find…but those were minor). As challenging as I found the whole thing, He and the other guests said I got it pretty close to hers.
Most of the time I am a kitchen cupboard cook. In other words, I look in them and come up with something out of whatever I find in there. I create something out of nothing. And most of the times (90% to 95%) it turns out pretty darn good.
It is a skill that I passed on to my oldest son, Mr Stability. When I was a working single mother with four teenagers, I started a family tradition where each would have to cook one night each week. It was a given that my two youngest sons would make either beanie-weenie or spaghetti. My daughter would find a recipe and follow it. Then there was Mr Stability…he had inherited or learned from Mommy.
Like me, most of the time it was fab. Then there was THAT chilli. He got the jars of spices mixed up and instead of adding loads of paprika and a tiny bit of the HOT chilli powder, he added loads of chilli and a bit of paprika. But being a single Mom, I did not believe in wasting anything. So we tried cutting it…with more meat…more beans…more tomatoes. We tried serving it with lots of cheese and sour cream. But nothing worked. Nothing. And six months later when we moved to England, we still had a couple of containers of it in the freezer that I finally forced myself to throw away.
I am just as bad when it comes to the instructions on sewing patterns. I am always looking for shortcuts that can save time and effort. Sometimes that is a huge success and others…well, I end up ripping out seams too.The truth is that like those recipes I often either end up sewing without using a pattern at all or taking the sleeves from this one and putting it with the neckline/bodice of that one to create something totally complete and different.
It reminds me of the old saying…
I am a big one for planning (Oh…I feel more blogs coming on here). I make annual ones and monthly ones…and weekly ones…and daily ones. You know what? Life almost never goes to my plan…no matter how hard I try.
So being able to look in life’s cupboards or alter a pattern is a really useful skill to have. After all…plans, patterns and recipes are nothing more than ideas…and suggestions of how to do things. And some rules were meant to be broken….except for the rule of love of course…that one should never be broken.