These cold and wet autumn evenings draw me to the sofa with cook books and magazines, drooling over hotpots, stews and baking projects. I wrote a few posts ago about recipes and cook books, which got me thinking about how I learned to cook and when I first got interested in food. Well, other than what was for lunch.
My first entry into the kitchen, was being asked by mother to beat eggs to add to a cake mixture or for scrambled eggs. Apparently, and of this I have no proper memory, I loved this so much, and took it so seriously, that it was funny to watch me with fork and bowl, beating away furiously.
From here I moved on to….making souffles. I guess I must have made things in between, but one summer when I was 11, my brother, who was living in Paris at the time, decided I should learn to cook, and so every night for a week, I had to make an orange souffle from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have never forgotten this experience, and don’t think I have made many since (certainly not for many years), but it taught me measuring, the importance of a hot oven, using good ingredients and most of all, the fun of cooking.
It was also these trip to Paris where I learned about food other than my mother’s mince or beans on toast. I used to long for the first trip to the boulangerie, the wonders of a horse butcher (that I never entered) and the twice weekly markets full of cheeses, fruit and a stall with little biscuits that always drew my attention.
A first souffle with Mum and my sister-in-law
From souffles I moved to baking – scones, biscuits, cakes – making something almost every Sunday. This, combined with cooking dinner once or twice a week for the family, were my first forays into the kichen. I began to discover the joy of cooking, of trying things out, of my first loaf of bread (not a success), and of realising, in my later teenage years, that I used tins of tomatoes and capsicum (peppers) in nearly every dish.
Over the years, there have been periods of my life when I have done less cooking and hardly any baking, but here in New Zealand I have rediscovered the pleasure of being able to access fresh and seasonal produce, which has reignited my inner foodie. As Julia Child said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” And yet while nothing beats the simplicity of a pile of piping hot scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast, every now and again it is time to turn on our inner chef and produce a souffle.
…or a scone