I’ve always thought I could cook. My mom is a great cook, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her. My father is known to make up random but incredibly delicious dishes on the spot. My grandmothers were also amazing cooks. With this pedigree, I assumed the knowledge of cooking just flowed right on to me.
This false sense of accomplishment fed a sense of pride, and was manifest as my “I don’t need a recipe because I know how to cook!” phase (which was interestingly preceded by my “quesadillas and cereal for dinner every night” phase). I would begin with a recipe and an independent spirit, adding “just a bit more of something” here and substituting “a little something” there and, viola! Wait, is that cumin in the french toast?
Despite the failures, I kept on messing with recipes. I knew how to read them (I had the family chocolate chip cookie recipe memorized), but I felt so unoriginal doing it. I always wanted to make the dish my own, and was determined to do it, no matter how many weird tasting curries and uninspiring stews I churned out!
Fortunately, the dinner disasters began to wane around the time my sister bought my Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem. It was gorgeous, and I wanted to make every single thing in it. While on this middle eastern escapade, I actually followed the recipes because I had no delusions that I knew how to tweak mejadra or shwarma. From there, I started following more familiar recipes a little more closely, from Marcella Hazan, Deb Perelman, and many random online ones. And everything just tasted good. Eventually, both the disasters and recipes from amazing cooks taught me what I could change and what I couldn’t (smoked paprika is a terrible substitute for sweet paprika), things to hold my horses on (caraway and tamarind are acquired tastes, my friends!), and infallible techniques (carmelizing onions is a great first step to any dish!). Though there have been (and always will be) some strange and downright gross dinners when you’re experimenting (how is taking Betty Crocker’s advice on mole ever a good idea?), every failure is a learning experience.
I started this blog because I love food. I love feeding people. I love it when people feel like they can make delicious things, because with practice, anyone can! Hopefully this is inspiration to cook, or to try something new. In the spirit of the Pixar movie Ratatouille, I believe that anyone can cook just about anything, and I hope the recipes I share will inspire you to do just that. I’m here to share recipes that worked for me as well as a little empathy when things go wrong.