I wish I could say that everything I know about cooking I learned from my parents. They made every effort to teach me, but as a kid I wasn't interested. My mom would say, "Come learn to make pie crust." I would say "No thanks". I watched my mom and dad work side by side to create elaborate meals for holidays or when guests came to dinner. I saw them put together simpler meals for the family on weekends. I enjoyed eating the food, but I was just fine not knowing how to make it.
My first year of college I chose an apartment style dorm where I cooked for myself. Thinking back I am not sure what prompted me to chose that over the cafeteria meal plan dorms. I lived on Top Ramen, generic brand mac and cheese and -the fanciest thing I ever made- chicken tenders and potatoes, liberally covered in lemon pepper seasoning and cooked stove top in a skillet.
Then I spent 18 months in France. I ate with college students just scraping by, middle class families, and everything in between. My favorite meals were with twin sisters who grew up in a family that ran several restaurants. They made me amazing things I had never heard of before like Coquille Saint Jaques and Iles Flottantes. I noticed that while not everyone had lots of money for fancy ingredients, everyone seemed to have a really good grasp of how to make great basics. Once I had a delicious Quiche Lorraine whipped up by a college student who was dead tired at the end of a long day. So tired, she whipped up a delicious Quiche Lorraine. That's what she made when she was wiped out. No bowl of cold cereal, no take out. Quiche. I came home a new woman. A woman who made quiche or salmon tarte with creme fraiche dill sauce instead of mac and cheese from a box.
I skipped out on the knowledge my parents tried to share with me and ended up having to figure it all out on my own. But here's my daughter cooking something up with my dad in the kitchen last week:
They made edible slime out of starbursts, powdered sugar and corn starch. He's an amazing baker, so next time maybe we will aim a little higher. I will be right there with them on his next visit- ready to learn.