Growing up, my mom was an amazing cook. Her mom, my grandmother, once owned and operated a small diner and specialized in Southern cooking. I did not think I inhereted their passion or talent for cooking until just recently.
I ate some amazing food growing up – the sort of Chicken-Fried-Everything, bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good kinds of food, but our selections were usually quite limited. Not much by way of variety, essentially the same sorts of things over and over. I didn’t mind much – food was food, and it was some damn good food at that – and growing up that way I really never knew much better.
Then I got married. My wife loves nothing more than variety and being adventurous with foods, so I started eating all sorts of things I never got at home – vegetarian, Greek, Thai, sushi, you name it. The only thing my wife dislikes is the same thing over and over, which was exactly what I was used to. Once I got over this little bit of culture shock, I grew to love it and embraced foods and cooking in a way I never did before.
Not that I’m any sort of experienced foodie, by any mean. I consider myself strictly an amtaeur who likes to try new things. There is one catch, however – I absolutely, positively, need a recipe. There are people out there – my grandmother, my mom, and my wife among them – who see cooking as alchemy. A dash of this, a dash of that, hey what’s that over there, who cares, we’ll add it, boom, it’ll taste good. I can’t operate that way. I need structure. I need to follow the recipe, exactly, every time. I measure out 1/4 teaspoon instead of grabbing a pinch and throwing it in the pot. I look up cooking terms – what is blanching, anyway? – to see how they do it properly.
Cooking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m a J instead of a P. If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, you’ll know that part of the classification divides those who are Ps, who procrastinate, dither, and do things when the mood strikes them, from Js, who are listmakers and organizers. I trend P while my wife is a J. (Or son, Gavin, is a hardcore J. If my socks or my bookbag is on the floor where it shouldn’t be, he’ll let me know about it. Loudly.)