Starting to cook for myself was an interesting thing. Like most people, I suspect, I started by making toast. You know. Throw sliced bread into the toaster and wait for it to pop.
Next, I moved on to scrambled eggs. These were not the fluffy light, moist kind I enjoy now. These were more firm. They were a small patty of eggs, scrambled in the pan and left to cook, and brown, on both sides. The texture made them great for fried egg sandwiches, though. They were the basis of my first taste experiment, too. I added a few dashes of soy sauce before scrambling them. It really enhanced the egg flavor. It wasn't until I was an adult that I mastered the fluffy, whisk-scrambled egg.
It was at this point that I started noticing that PBS had more kinds of shows than nature documentaries and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (I love Fred Rogers). There were cooking shows on PBS, too. The first one to catch my eye was Jeff Smith – the Frugal Gourmet. I didn't know what a gourmet was, or why what frugal meant, but it sounded cool.
That's when I decided to go it on my own and cook from a recipe book.
I think I've mentioned this before, but one of the first recipes I clearly remember trying to make from a book was a cheese soufflé. Not the most modest choice, I'll grant you. Still, it sounded cool. I'd heard of soufflés. They were supposed to be “fancy” and “upscale.” The recipe looked simple enough, and we had all the ingredients, so why not? I think I was about thirteen.
Now, before I continue, let me confide in you that my parent's weren't home at the time. I don't know if they were both working, or what, but I clearly recall that they were away, and would remain so, for some time. I don't know if I subconsciously chose this time to avoid the potential wrath of my mother, given the mess I was about to make, or not. Go ask Jung if you want to. Or Freud. In any case, I was a thirteen year old messing in the kitchen by himself.
I came to a point in the recipe that I just couldn't fathom – separating eggs. If you've been reading my blog, you'll already know how I called one of the “neighbor ladies” to help me out. My mom just found about about that, by the way, nearly thirty years later.
Oddly enough, the soufflé was a success. In fact, we ate it as part of dinner that evening. My mother, thankfully, didn't kill me for using the oven without her. Then again, I had cleaned up the biggest part of the mess before she got home. My Dad declared that he “liked it.” If you knew my Dad, that's a great complement.
I was encouraged.
I went on to try other recipes. Chocolate souffle (that one didn't turn too well), chocolate cake from scratch, Red Baron Root beer ... whatever struck my fancy.
All of that ended when, right out of high school, I joined the Marine Corps.