the home cook

When I was seventeen, I auditioned for the theater program at Julliard.

Actors are a loony bunch, always convincing themselves that they are exactly what they tell themselves to be. I remember waiting in the hallway, dressed in my serious long black skirt, loosening my jaw, breathing deeply. Everyone in that hallway muttered to themselves, sang random bars of show tunes, cartwheeled through the center of the group. We all moved and careened and inhabited the space as we came into the great room where we would warm up with a real live Julliard professor. It was a classic warm up.

“Move through the space- but you are moving through molasses. Feel the molasses all around you.”

Each actor believed, knew, hoped with all their heart that they were indeed moving through molasses! It was thick, and sticky, and it held the limbs in place as each tried to move forward against its force. We were probably sixty of us in that room, all trying to be in our process so much that the one professor would see that I AM THE ONE WHO IS TRULY AND PASSIONATELY MOVING THROUGH MOLASSES.

Of course, I didn’t have a chance. I was distracted by the hilarity of the scene, and as I pushed myself through that molasses, I saw the guy across the room (leading his way with his tongue) run into the woman who insisted on doing the whole warmup on her hands, and I couldn’t help but let out a laugh.

Months later, I was at NYU as a Freshman, and my whole life was that warmup. Everyday I’d look in the mirror of the room I shared with two other women, and I’d say, “I am this. I am the actor in New York. I can do this.”

I dropped out after the first semester. I’ve never been all that good at faking it, and I was a pretty terrible actor anyway.

I have a friend who is working on a cookbook, and she was in my kitchen not so long ago. She was talking about so many insecurities that were creeping up as she worked on sharing her knowledge, her kitchen, and her recipes through words.

“Why do I have the right to do this? Why should people listen to me? I am, after all, just a home cook.”

Self-doubt will tear you to shreds if you let it. There is a weight in the responsibility of sharing what we know and experience with others. And so as home cooks who become food writers (and there are many of us!), we continue to learn from others, we test our recipes, we develop in our work, but we are (and in my case, I hope, always will be) home cooks at our very core.

I think that in any profession, there is a certain required amount of faking it. That other person in the room who seems to have full confidence in her ability to know exactly what she’s talking about–I’m guessing that she looked at herself in the mirror this morning and told herself she could do this. If you’re trying to fake it, then so is she. And that’s okay.

But I also think that home cooks are essential in this whole exciting conversation about food–not just to ask questions, but to answer them. We offer techniques and recipes, and the fact in itself that those recipes have been developed and tested in home kitchens is so useful to the reader who wants to figure out how to make a great meal in their tiny kitchen while their kids are pulling on them. But even more than that, I think that stories and recipes from home cooks can give people courage to become home cooks. These stories bring people into the kitchen with us, and before they know it, they’re cooking too. At least, that’s how I got here.

Next month is Laurie Colwin’s birthday. It would have been her 68th, and I have several friends who will be celebrating her birthday in different ways–I’ll tell you more about that soon. But in the mean time, because it’s Friday, and glorious outside, and I’ve been thinking about my friend in the midst of her book, and how to express even a little of what I love about home cooks writing and sharing their lives and recipes with the world, I want to give away the books that have inspired me the most.

I’m not giving you my copies. These books–Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and More Home Cooking–they’re full of stains and folds! But I’m going to buy new copies from my local bookstore this weekend, and I’d love to send them to you, if you need them.

I’ll leave you with a bit of Laurie (I hope that wherever she is, she will forgive the fact that we are on a first name basis, but after all, she has held my hand in the kitchen these many years, and so, in that way, she is indeed a friend).

These days family life (or private life) is a challenge, and we must all fight for it. We must turn off the television and the telephone, hunker down in front of our hearths, and leave our briefcases at the office, if only for one night. We must march into the kitchen, en famille or with a friend, and find some easy, heartwarming things to make from scratch, and even if it is but once a week, we must gather at the table, alone or with friends or with lots of friends or with one friend, and eat a meal together. We know that without food we would die. Without fellowship life is not worth living.

-from More Home Cooking

Happy Friday, friends. I hope the weekend is wonderful! To enter, leave a comment here on this post–let’s talk about home cooks! Is there someone who has made a great difference to you? Or a story that gave you the courage to jump in? Or maybe there’s a kitchen or a recipe that hangs out in your memory. I’d love to hear. I’ll choose the winner on Monday night (the 21st).

 

 


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58 Responses to the home cook

  1. Lynn says:

    I was raised by a home cook who could make almost anything taste great. So could one of my grandmothers. The other, not so much. But she loved to eat good food. It never occurred to me to be afraid of cooking or sharing what I know. While neither my mother or grandmother were real adventurous, they gave me a firm foundation for the exploring I do in my own kitchen. For that I am most grateful.

  2. Danielle says:

    I learned all I know about being a homecook from my dad.. Who could look at a pantry and a fridge, and come up with the most amazing meals out of what seemed like the most sensless ingredients. Being a semi-stay at home mom of the most amazing 2 year old and working nights, often being able to make something out of seemingly nothing has often been a blessing and borderline superhero ability, so I know that y family is well fed, eating healthy meals and going to bed with full bellies!

  3. StevenE says:

    My mom was a stay at home cook and inspired me 1st. Later on I had a roommate that liked to garden and we had a large garden out back of our house. she taught me a bunch about canning. I’ve canned some strawberry jam I made and am trying to make 2 things: one, a cupcake that you put the batter in and then a dollop of jam and it rises around the jam for a jam-filled cupcake. and I have researched filling chocolate w/jam. I now have the mold and will be filling soon!

  4. Kelly says:

    I come from a family of Midwestern women who have grown and cooked their way through generations. In the past four years since my marriage began, I find myself longing to be in my kitchen or my garden. I guess the apple truly does not fall far from the tree.

  5. Victoria says:

    My mum is one of five siblings who all spend time in the kitchen and have gardens so family meals always consisted of home grown produce and amazing food…. I hope I’m doing the same.

  6. Hannah says:

    Hi Alana – I don’t need Laurie’s books, because I have them and I also love them to stained pieces – so don’t enter me in your drawing, but know that I love this post and love hearing about people’s home-cooking inspirations! You probably know this, but ‘A Writer In The Kitchen’ went into the James Beard Hall of Fame this year … Other writers who have shared their kitchens and their stories and whom I find to be insightful and inspiring – Ruth Reichl, MFK Fisher, Laura Fraser (travel/food/amazing … ) … my list could go on! For me as a home cook – my parents started me on the path, and then as it turns out my kids have been the best teachers of all … Thanks for another wonderful post.

  7. emmycooks says:

    I so agree! I think anything that reminds people that they CAN just be home cooks (the kind of cooks that don’t care at all what’s happening on Food TV or whatever) is valuable to our shared cooking culture. And I completely agree that being an able home cook is a superpower! I often say that mine is the ability to cook in a messy kitchen–because that’s how real life is, and that’s how us home cooks roll.

  8. Julie F says:

    At my first job out of college, my boss was a wonderful cook. She was the person who helped me start cooking. She taught me the importance of using good recipes since I was a novice in the kitchen. She would help me troubleshot recipes too when they didn’t turn out the way I expected them to. I would never have started cooking if it weren’t for her example and support.

  9. Marie says:

    I was a wife and mother at 19, and everything I knew how to cook came from a box…I went to work in a grocery store when my oldest was 9 months old (two more would follow in the next 4 years), and that’s where I met Micki. She taught me my first lesson in ‘real’ cooking – marinades. Such a simple thing, but completely new to me at the time. That little success gave me the confidence to try other things (that didn’t have ‘Helper’ in the title!).

  10. Kimberly says:

    I am very lucky to have come from a home where we sat down for dinner almost every night. My mom was a solid cook who fed us delicious, classic meals. We moved to Maine when I was in 5th grade and my new friend, Stephanie, had a mom who cooked everything from scratch (bread, bagels, coconut Easter eggs, concord grape cocktail). I learned so much from Sally and cherish these food memories. She and I get together for tea every now and again and talk about children, grandchildren, challenges, blessings and of course food!

  11. Erica says:

    I only became a home cook over the past four or five years, when I saw the difference that a conscious effort could make to the health and happiness of my family. I still remember buying Shake n Bake and serving chips and salsa as a side dish, but those memories get crowded out by the more magical ones – homemade bread coming out of the oven, the taste of the first salad we ate from local produce, the wonderful craziness of my mom and older sister asking me for recipes and watching their meals evolve too. Learning to cook, and eat well, has changed my outlook entirely. I’ve been meaning to track down Laurie’s books. :)

  12. I agree with the comments form emmycooks – people need to be reminded that they can cook at home and that it is okay if what they make doesn’t look like something from a magazine. If it tastes good and it is nutritious for your family, who cares if it is a little lopsided, or whatever. The important thing is just to do it and to keep trying, even if sometimes dinner is a big flop. (I’ve had my fair share of those!)
    I only recently discovered your blog (via your book) and I am enjoying both tremendously. Thank you.

  13. Annette says:

    Home cooking used to be one of my least favorite ‘chores’…having to make meal after meal (after meal!)…it always seemed to be in the way of what I really wanted to be doing. Turns out, though, when I went to the bookstore, the cookbook section was the first place I found myself. And I could lose myself in the pretty pictures and words of a recipe blog post after just the title, ‘Cilantro Lime Rice Pilaf”. It was something of a relief when I (finally) figured out the “other things” I thought I wanted to do were really me following the “shoulds” of others. Cooking did not need to be fancy or fast or even spectacular each and every meal. Slowly, slowly, my mindset changed and focused on good food (even simple food) made with love and attention. And wouldn’t you know it…home cooking has become one of my very favorite responsibilities. It is no longer “the” kitchen, it is “my” kitchen and it is becoming the heartbeat of our home…the making and the sharing and the caring…and the eating!
    And so, I would love another hand to hold in my kitchen…Laurie’s and, I think…yours, Alana.
    Thanks!

  14. Jeni says:

    Even though we didn’t always eat the fanciest of foods, my parents taught me to be comfortable in the kitchen and to try new things. I still love cooking with them!

  15. sYD says:

    Ohhhh the memories of being in my Grandma’s kitchen. Jams, home made egg noodles. Was not a fan of the raw milk straight from the cow…but her doughnuts were so amazing that one Christmas when I was asked what I wanted…My answer was to learn how to make Grandma’s Doughnuts. Got my wish and still treasure the memory..she never had a written recipe, they were all in her amazing head. Sigh still miss her.

  16. family dinner is central in my childhood memories. my mother made dinner while dad and the kids were on clean up. after i married and began my own family mere miles from my parents, grandparents, and extended family, i felt like i had a wealth of information/recipes/inspiration to draw on. i also had a wealth of people to eat with (family dinners multiple times a week, last-minute dinner invites from grandma across the street…) fast forward three years and i’m living in italy with my husband and small baby and cooking three meals a day every day. what a wake up call. and how much respect i have for the home cook.

  17. Anna says:

    my grandmother, alice. she passed on 12 years ago this august. people still talk about her cooking and i still can’t finish making her german pancakes. i always get too emotional to finish. isn’t amazing how much you can miss someone and for so long?
    my own mother was not a great cook and really had no interest. my grandma, though, she had the passion, the curiousity, and the raw talent. i started cooking more and more about 7 years ago. cooking and gardening give me so much joy. sharing that with my son and watching him learn and add his two cents to the process…makes me so happy i could burst.
    thanks for sharing with us. i found your blog through DALS and really have enjoyed trying the recipes. xo!

  18. erika says:

    I lived off of bagels with peanut butter and the kindness of strangers for a ridiculous amount of time! I look back and think, how am I still alive since I went so long without knowing how to feed myself? When I got married, I thought, I have to be able to cook food for my husband, and slowly but surely, I started getting comfortable in an area of the house that always terrified me: the kitchen. I’m still not a great cook – I cannot just pull ingredients into something amazing – but I can make some tasty things. My focus on fresh and healthy foods is what keeps me going – I know that pre-made and pre-packaged are not as nutritious, and for better or worse, I keep expanding my repetoire in order to feed my family in the healthiest way possible.

  19. Jmh says:

    Hmmm…my mom was a pretty good home cook, always making soups and pies and tasty treats. I think I have remembered her meals and tried to do things a little crazier (meatloaf has so much more potential than what I grew up with!). I love recipes on blogs and in cookbooks that have unique twists, or beautiful photos.

  20. Shelly says:

    I learned from the “home cooks” in my life, my mother, grandmothers, mother-in-law, and even my 11 year younger sister-in-law. As a teen, I tried out new recipes on my parents and high school boyfriends. When I got married, I gardened & experimented with vegetarian cooking, and as my sons were born and we added chickens and geese to our family, I tried out more new recipes. I continue to evolve, and pass on some of my knowledge to my daughter-in-law and someday to my granddaughter. I would love to be entered in this drawing. Food, cooking, and the philosophy of what it means to be a home cook seem to be so perfectly expressed by Laurie. Thank you for the opportunity to add my own stains and folds to one of her cookbooks!

  21. JoAnn C. says:

    Mostly I just dabbled in the kitchen. I would cook the Sandra Lee semi-homemade way and call that “from scratch.” But then mom became ill and with a whole new set of “forbiddens” in the kitchen, I took more of an interest in the effort I was putting into our meals. At 50 years old, (really I feel 24), I find myself loving cooking. I’ve always been close with mom, but find us even closer these days as I learn to work new recipes to fit her needs. Often I run to the other side of the house with a spoonful of something I’ve just made for her to taste. She’ll either give me the thumbs up or tell me what would make the food taste better. We’re enjoying buying cookbooks, (yours and others too), and checking out six or more books from the library each month, while consulting our old tried and true books that have been around for more years than I. I am a home cook, made that way out of necessity, and proud of it. Two days ago in the grocery store, I found myself explaining to a total stranger how to cook dried beans. DRIED BEANS??!! It made me laugh because five years ago I only bought dried beans when I needed to blind bake a frozen pie shell. Now I can make both from scratch. I can’t believe how far I’ve come and at my age!

  22. Liz says:

    Oh, the home cooks I’ve learned from. My maternal grandmother, who (like many maternal grandmothers, it seems) made THE BEST pies ever, and insisted that if you wanted to master the art of pastry that you needed to “Make a pie a week, for a year”.

    My mom, who managed to whip together meals after work with what we had on hand (frittatas with leftover spaghetti in them!) and who, like me, has a fondness and a knack for lemon-based desserts (including the best lemon ice cream, which is churning in my kitchen as I type this).

    My dad, who is a food scientist, and works in a commercial cannery, and who continues to soak up every bit of food science knowledge he can. My dad, who as a twenty-something won the blue ribbon for his apple pie at the county fair, shocking the elderly ladies. My dad, who befriends the migrant workers from Jamaica and who has been lucky enough to have some of their secret recipes shared with him.

    I have been influenced by too many home cooks to count!

  23. HollyB says:

    I have always loved experimenting in the kitchen. I was never great at sports or fabulous in school but in the kitchen I didn’t need anyone to compete against. It was just me and the oven/stove/gadgets. I love that I can go in with simple ingredients and come out with something so delicious!!

  24. Michael Schneider says:

    My mother, who has a college degree in Home Economics, has only sons. She therefore did her best to teach my brother and I how to sew and cook (among other things). Sewing didn’t take with either of us—though when I put a button that’s fallen off back on, I guarantee you it’ll never fall off again—and my brother’s not much of a cook, but I love everything about being and working in a kitchen, and eating and sharing the results. So I guess I’m entering this contest in honor of my mom; may it be many, many long years before I inherit her hundreds of cookbooks.

    ~MS

  25. I grew up in a house without much cooking in it…there were no family dinners, no helping my mother stir big pots of steaming deliciousness, no pulling fresh-baked bread out of the oven, no recipes handed down generation to generation. Instead we had microwavable frozen monstrosities, often eaten at separate times in different rooms. One of my odd forms of high school rebellion was to learn how to cook things from scratch and make a total mess of my mother’s freshly remodeled designer kitchen (which she never used). I found an old copy of the Joy of Cooking in the back of a cabinet, read it cover to cover, and then began to teach myself recipes and techniques, one by one. Now I happily cook meals from scratch using local ingredients, and I share them with my family, 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.

  26. Pam says:

    Laurie Colwin was (is!) one of my favorites, too. She was such an interesting, vibrant woman. Have you read ALONE IN THE KITCHEN WITH AN EGGPLANT? –a series of “food” essays, one of which was written by Laurie’s daughter.

  27. CarlaS says:

    My younger brother and I learned how to cook out of necessity. We were your typical 80′s “latch-key” kids. My mother was no cook. She would buy dinner at KFC or Long John Silvers, lunch was soup or PB and J– to this day she makes marshmallow treats for breakfast! I think we were hungry for homemade food. We longed for trips to my grandma’s not only for her fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but biscuits and gravy and even hot cereal. We started out simple with canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches; but by the time I was seven and he was six,with the help of my mom’s Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, we were making home cooked meals. From pancakes to pot roast to Russian tea cakes, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook led our young culinary journey. Now 36, I have amassed a beautiful collection of cookbooks, but my mom’s tattered, spattered, yellowed and torn Betty Crocker has stayed with me (my brother still cooks too, but flies w/o recipes).

  28. Suzanne Hasty says:

    “Self doubt will tear you to shreds,” is definitely how I feel right now. I am a stay at home mom for 6 years now and that is all I feel. I am a home cook because my mom, a portuguese immigrant, and my extended family are all home cooks. It’s all that I know, yet, I just picked up a part time job at a local, cozy resturant, and as I work in the kitchen with the chef and gourmet cooks, I stay silent. I’m afraid to give my opinion or talk about a dish. But your blog is giving me some courage so maybe I’ll let them know what I think :)
    Thanks,
    PS- would love the cookbooks you suggested. I read cookbooks in my sparetime, not only for recipes but for anthopological reasons. In cooking, everybody does it a little different.

  29. Jen says:

    The cooks that have influenced me the most are my family and friends. Especially my mom, sister and grandmothers. They have imparted a feeling about making and eating food. Gathering, sharing and enjoying it that I carry with me every day in the kitchen.

  30. Julia McIntosh says:

    My mom. She has always made us treats from scratch since I can remember – whether simple homemade cookies as an after-school snack or a gourmet dinner that expanded our taste buds. She has inspired each of us, my siblings and I, as well as our partners now, to learn to cook and share it with those we love. She recently made us our own “McIntosh Family Cookbook” with some of our favourite recipes from over the years. But really, I think what she has taught us the most is to always be trying something new in the kitchen; my mom doesn’t have many standbys that she regularly makes – she is never afraid to try new recipes and is always on the lookout for new ideas. In her words: “In your 18 years at home, you tried approximately 4500 new recipes!! Plus, on visits home while at school and beyond, you likely tried from 60-150 more recipes” – amazing!
    And now, since retiring from teaching, she is passing her passion on to young children in a lunch hour healthy grub club. Such an inspiration. Thank you Mom!

  31. Jessi Reil de Olvera says:

    I was raised by a single mother. Times were really hard and still to this day I do not know how she did it all by herself. When it was the end of the month, the cupboards and fridge bare, I would ask, “what’s for dinner mom?” Her response “food”. This was not meant as sarcasm…it meant it was not her usual list of recipes. No “food” meant that she dug deep! Deep into the pantry and deep into her heart and soul to prepare a meal for the ones she loved. Most of all, “food” was always the best meal we ever tasted because it was made purely of love, and whatever else she was able to scrounge from the kitchen.

  32. Donna M. was my unwitting muse back when I was young and she was young + one year. She is Italian and grew up with grandparents in the home. Her house always smelled delicious – a place where it was not unusual to see pasta being rolled out on the kitchen table. We spent one summer cooking from her mother’s Betty Crocker recipe cards and I was hooked. This wasn’t my mother’s canned veggies and boiled everything else. These people baked pastrys and made their own sauce. My life has never been the same and I am forever grateful.

  33. Hannah M. says:

    My mother cooked dinner for us all every night when she got home from work-it didn’t seem like much at the time, but in retrospect I wonder how she did it, what with me and my sister so impatient to eat every night.

  34. Tanya says:

    My Mom is a wonderful cook and baker, and I was her kitchen slave, as the oldest. I was bitter about it at the time, but now I am so thankful I know how to do it! I am teaching my four year old how to make his own toast in the morning, and he loves that he is making it and swears it is the best toast EVER! I love taking the lessons from my mom, and updating them, and hope that my boys will do the same…

  35. alwayshungry says:

    I grew up in a teeny tiny house with a huge oak table in the center of it. Pretty much every memory of home revolves around that table. Playing under it as a kid, doing my homework on it as a teenager and then of course the meals shared around it.
    I was raised by a single working mom, I don’t know how she did it, but every single meal was homemade. The meals were simple and almost always really good. But the important part is they were always shared together with respect and love.
    Mom has a super power, she brings people together, a creator of community, she helped my sister and I understand the power of connection. Though her power extends far beyond, I bet you can guess, it was often around that table that it was really tangible!
    It was not until I left home that I actually started to cook, before then I always enjoyed good food but the kitchen was my mom and sister’s domain. I was doing some pretty heavy duty demanding studies at the time, so one could have assumed that quick and easy food would, should or could have been my choice. But no not at all, even if I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to cook I knew what a meal was, the soothing reasurance and satisfaction it brings at the end of the day. So before starting to write essaies and study huge volumes I would throw down my bag and start chopping. I had no idea what I was doing but through trial and error I’ve become the cook that I am today. I know now that it’s the warmth shared around our oak table that made me who I am today.
    I would be thrilled to discover Laurie expecially since I have no idea who she is but if she comes with your recomendation, I’m certain that she’ll be well worth the read!
    By the way I baked your yellow cake yesterday and it turned out perfectly, Thanks!

  36. Alicea says:

    Love this post! Since moving to Saudi Arabia my home cookiness has been kicked into high gear. I’ve had to quickly learn how to cook without my favorite staples, wine and bacon, and without convenience foods like bread from the store and packaged tortillas. LUCKILY there are great cookbooks out there (ahem) that are helping out girls like me. This weekend was my shinning home cook moment. I had people in my house from morning till night and it was fabulous. Everyone kept coming over and I kept feeding them everything from pancakes to homemade tortillas slathered in re-fried beans, and finally lasagna with homemade ricotta! I loved every second of it and I learned that I LOVE feeding people and having my friends stay all day long. HOME COOKS RULE!

  37. When I was growing up, we ate dinner every night together. We waited for my dad to get home from work so we could eat together. I watched my mom cook and bake, and when I was about 12 years old my dad started cooking, too. I learned basic cooking skills by just watching them. I started cooking, too, when I was 12 or 13. Cooking and family diners continue to be central to my life (my parents’ life too). Feeding the people you love and sharing a meal together is one of the greatest joys in life.

  38. sarah says:

    my mother,..of course was always my teacher and inspiration, my grandmothers too! i learned to cook and create when i could walk..we learned early in my house..always had a garden and now in my 30′s i teach my children the same way..my 5 and 3 yr old just completed an amazing strawberry buttermilk cake! we would love a new cookbook as ours are so very stained they have become hard to read!

  39. Jen says:

    My mom is still my favorite home cook. I grew up eating family dinners each night and am continuing that with my husband and children now. We take turns preparing meals and Laurie’s words ring very true. We need to make time for food-making. It’s something we’re always learning more about–the balance of work, kids, activities, rest and wholesome food (that everyone will eat!). I would love to learn more from her cookbooks! Thank you!

  40. Kathleen says:

    My grandmother is my inspiration. She always let us help in the kitchen and every meal at her home was a time for family to get together to talk and laugh. She made simple meals seem extra ordinary. She feed her family very well using limited resources. She has inspired me to provide the same for my children and maybe even my grandchildren some day. We always love new cookbooks here. My six year old seems to be getting the cooking bug herself.
    I really enjoy your blog and I have just received your book and am excited to try quite a few things. Kathy (O:

  41. janet says:

    you know I do not need those books, but there is plenty here that hits my spot….xo

  42. Theresa Murphy says:

    My mother always cooked in the house, and Dad would do the outdoor cooking. Most of the time it was good, and sometimes not. But we always ate together for our meals. There were 10 of us, counting ma and pa, and the table was not huge. But that didn’t keep us from coming together and laughing and talking and enjoying each other and the meal.

  43. Kris says:

    My mom is, without a doubt, my first and biggest inspiration in the kitchen. We ate as a family through out my childhood. Living on my own, I’ve become more adventurous in the kitchen, but my mom and I still share recipes and learn from each other. Even after 20 years of cooking in my own kitchen, I still sometimes call her with cooking questions.

  44. Wendy Read says:

    My Mom was a fabulous cook and she inspired me and gave me the confidence to take anything on.

  45. Amanda says:

    Though it may sound cliche, my mother was most definitely the greatest influence on me, in terms of cooking. She showed me what it meant to create an amazing family experience with food and I am now transitioning those lessons into my own family. She passed away a few years ago and I so miss her goulash, cheesecakes, and amazing sauces.

  46. Jess says:

    My mom and grandmothers helped me to be a homecook by letting me cook– often making me cook– froma very young age the whole way through highschool. WHile I’m sure there were exceptions, I made dinner at least once a week, and in high school, a bit more often. None of these women were interested in the gourmet side of things, but all of them are very good cooks with their special dishes and years of wisdom. I agree that showing others they can easily be home cooks is the way to make them a home cook themself.

    Cheers!

  47. Dana says:

    Not to be cheesy, but I think my mom has always been the one to encourage the home cook in me. She always made dinners with the help of me and my siblings, showing us how to crack an egg, how to know when the vegetables were done, and most importantly, how to fake it when you didn’t have all of the right ingredients. I hope one day that I can pass that onto my children, create more home cooks.

  48. Amanda says:

    Well, I was raised in a home where, although she fed us reasonably healthy, good meals, my mother made it no secret that she hated to cook! It wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I really thought about this and how it effected me. I had not learned how to make much of anything in my years at home and I had somewhat internalized her anti-cooking philosophy! Luckily I met and fell in love with a man who loves to cook and has inspired me with this attitude. Ironically, we have found ourselves in very traditional gender roles where he works long days out of the home, and guess what? I cook! For us and our 3 children. I feel as though my life revolves around feeding those I love. And what a journey it has been to embrace this job of home cook! But I have learned so much with endless more to go. Books have been instrumental in this process and I have no idea who this Laurie is of who you speak!! Will have to see if Brattleboro’s (yes, we are practically neighbors) library has anything by her. Thank you for your work and sharing so freely on this blog. I find it inspiring to see your own journey!

  49. Elizabeth says:

    I learned from my Mom, who learned from my grandma, who raised 8 kids and ran a dairy farm….so we’ve always cooked with lots of cheese and milk. And I have an ooooooold version of a church cookbook that is amazing. Thanks for this!

  50. Sara says:

    my mom and grandma, both home cooks, taught me to cook, and my mother in law and grandmother in law taught me to can. they also taught me, by example, that making and sharing food is an act of love.

  51. Karyn says:

    What a lovely quote! I’ve got medical issues that often keep me from cooking, and sometimes even from eating. I’ve been able to cook my first from-scratch meal in months tonight, and I’m feeling so good about that progress and about the different sense of Life I get from food I make myself. Even if I did use a pre-roasted chicken, and threw the greens into a rice cooker at the last moment to cook in the steam. It still counts in my heart!

    The contest is over already, but I feel moved to tell my story anyway. I hope you don’t mind!

    My mother is my biggest cooking influence. We had this half wall in the kitchen above her baking counter and stove, and I would sit on a bar stool watching her cook for hours. Homemade bread, home baked beans in a proper pot, stir-fries: so many yummy things. Nothing made me feel safer, calmer, or more loved than watching her cook good food for me while we chatted.

    The folks who wrote ‘Laurel’s Kitchen’ and Mollie Katzen come in at a close second. I poured over those books for hours and they taught me a lot about the gift of cooking for others. All my early cooking exploits came from those books.

  52. Jennifer Conner says:

    She couldn’t be more right! I so cherish those moments when the people I love come together over a home cooked meal and really connect despite all the stresses and craziness around us. There is nothing better!

  53. Robin-Taine says:

    I know I’m a little late here, but I just had to comment as I love the idea and practice of home cooking. I am blessed to come from a line of women who are/were wonderful home cooks. My mom was the type to always have preserves in the pantry, a home-cooked meal on the table, and 2 types of cookies in the cupboard (and yes, she worked a full-time job!). I, myself, came to cooking late, but I was never intimidated by the idea because it was such a natural thing in my home growing up.

    I discovered Laurie Colwin about 10 years ago. Her books are the ultimate in comfort reading and I make a point of re-reading them at least yearly. My copies are worn and stained and well-loved. (I thought I had lost one of the titles about a year ago and had a mild panic attack over it!!) The first time I read her, I felt as thoough I had found a friend and was truly grieved to learn she had passed away a few years prior. I am thrilled everytime I see someone mention her name and pass along some of her wisdom.

  54. Trina says:

    I am growing as a home cook every day. It is tough for me as a tired stay at home/work at home mom. But I know that every time I make the effort to cook a meal, I feel nourished because my family is fed. Recently my 6 yr old son told me that his favorite restaurant is “home” because the food is what he likes. The best praise ever! I hope that my children are inspired by me like so many of you were inspired by your moms!

  55. Lisa Sinicki says:

    What you said about faking it really resonates. Self doubt destroys dreams. I wrote about this myself last week after getting fired without warning by a freelance client I’d had for six years. http://missedtheboatagain.com/?p=2342

    Sorry I missed you at Longfellow. I’m on Peaks so let me know next time you are up here. I’ll treat at our ice cream store.

  56. krystina says:

    It’s so easy to give in to self doubt, especially about a process as finicky and imperfect and wonderful and personal as cooking. It’s not Laurie’s words that get me on this one, it’s yours. So I’ve read this entry a few times, whenever I need a third-party kick in the ass to get over those nagging feelings. (Plus it finally made me pick up her books, so double thanks for that!)

  57. Alzheivar says:

    Looks like you are having a great suemmr with your kids and many projects. Your cheesecake does look dreadful…next time send it my way and I will get rid of it for you, lol. have a good weekend doing what you love to do!

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