Imagine a kitchen, fridge door open, stove light on with ingredients sprawled out across every inch of counter space, cutting boards, knives, pots, pans, and a sink full of dirty dishes used for various steps of the cooking process. There are a handful of fresh vegetables and garlic unevenly and sporadically cut and minced, scattered over several cutting boards in neat-ish piles; chicken searing in the pan, water boiling over, dish soap leaking onto the floor. And there’s a woman now covered from head-to-toe flour, who, after tripping over a cat, knocked the flour from the top cabinet shelf because the door was left open, and there’s a man in the other room asking when dinner will be ready. This actually describes one of my evenings recently.
A few months ago I dove headfirst into my cooking adventure and it has been a wild ride to say the least. I never really had an interest in cooking elaborate, multiple-course meals until I became extremely tired of eating simple meals. I cooked the same things over and over: tacos, hamburger steaks, my grandma’s chicken rolls, frozen meals from Trader Joes, spaghetti, hamburger helper, and alfredo for as long as my husband, Christian and I had been married. Christian also often made steak, and don’t get me wrong, he makes the best steak that I still like, but I was growing tired of the same meals.
I also disliked how the over-processed, ready-to-make ingredients I used in the meals were making me feel. I love a good fast-food meal now and again, an occasional soda, and often I am really lazy in the morning and grab something unhealthy for breakfast, but because dinner was by far the biggest meal I ate each day, I wanted the ingredients I was consuming to provide me with needed energy, so I set out to start making meals from healthier and less processed ingredients.
I quickly learned that one of the misconceptions that comes with making meals from better ingredients is that they won’t taste as good. I learned that my husband and I could still eat a lot of the things we liked, but we would just have to make them ourselves with a little bit more effort than simply opening a few cans or cutting open a frozen bag.
I searched the internet looking for homemade meals that sounded appealing and I landed on a few that I thought would be simple. Boy, was I wrong. The first issue I ran into was finding specific ingredients in the store. For example, I was looking for garam masala for an Indian curry dish, but I couldn’t find it at any of the three major grocery stores in Tooele. Perhaps each store was sold out, but what are the chances of that? I finally gave up and had to go home and attempt to make my own garam masala, because there was no use putting back all of the other ingredients I had already placed in my cart. The problem was, when I got home, I looked up a recipe for the spice mix and I didn’t have cardamom and who knows how old my jar of bay leaves were? I ended up having to omit a few spices and man, it didn’t turn out right.
Another issue I ran into is the lack of flavor in many recipes, even five-star recipes. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I found myself measuring out the spices each recipe called for, and upon tasting the dish at the end of the cooking process, the meal was usually bland. This happened more often than not. I made sure I purchased fresh, new spices, but there just wasn’t enough flavor for my liking. I constantly found myself adding almost double the amount of spice each recipe asked for. I still do this.
There’s also something to be said about the mess cooking from scratch creates as I described in the first paragraph. No one, and I mean no one, is allowed at our home after 6 p.m., unless it’s an emergency because the kitchen will look like a tornado hit. Perhaps I’m just a messy cook, but even if I were to be very careful not to create a mess, which I don’t really have time for, I am sure my kitchen would still look pretty bad. Add not having a dishwasher and I’ve created a disaster that takes over an hour to clean. But you know what they say: the messiest cooks are the best cooks. I hope that’s true.
Despite all of the cooking challenges I’ve encountered, I’ve enjoyed the journey and I don’t plan to stop cooking any time soon. Spending a little extra time in the kitchen is worth it. I’ve made some pretty tasty dishes so far. My favorite is Thai basil beef or green curry. I love Thai food. It’s the ultimate comfort food and perfect for a cool fall day. My husband loves my 100% homemade chicken pot pie. He also loves homemade pizza, and yakisoba chicken.
Please email your favorite recipes to email@example.com. I am seriously running out of ideas. What’s your favorite dish?