The author, Tea Austen Weaver, asks:
If the debate on nature vs. nurture were to apply here, it’s clear to me that I don’t come by my love of cooking from environment (nurture). Our kitchen was not filled with baking aromas; no one took me in hand and showed me the way; and I never had much example of cooking beyond the basics. Any skills I have come from the books that I sought out—or TV cooking shows, and now blogs—but I had the urge, the interest already in me. Where did it come from?
I grew up in a potatoes-out-of-a-box household.
I think my mother saw cooking as a means to an end, a way of getting my sisters and me fed as quickly as possible. And hell, there's no rule saying you have to actually enjoy cooking any more than you have to enjoy folding clothes; it's part of life, and even if you don't like it, you still have to do it.
I do have one early memory of coming home from preschool and baking yellow-package-chocolate-chip-cookies with my mom. I remember watching her cream the butter and sugar by hand in a bowl (no KitchenAids in our house), and then beat the eggs in one at a time. I also remember the wonderful smell of cookies baking, which is the smell of home.
Have you ever cooked oatmeal cookies just so your home will smell cozy? Me too. In fact, I've roasted chickens for the same reason, or made a batch of cinnamony apple sauce.
But it's not how I was raised.
In fact, there's a funny story about how my parents cook Thanksgiving dinner every year. I noticed a few years back that, although my parents have been married 37 years and have cooked Thanksgiving dinner together all but maybe three of those years, every Thanksgiving they have the same exact argument. Nope, not about how much my mom spent on her latest set of "Thanksgiving-ish" napkins. No, not that someone forgot to buy extra cans of the jumbo black olives.
No, friends, they argue about how to cook the turkey.
Now, that's probably funny to you. I mean, it's funny to me, but somehow, when it's Thanksgiving morning and tensions are high, it's not funny to anyone else. And, granted, this is a high-stakes situation; you screw up the turkey and you get a beat-down, right? So you know, it's kinda important to get it right.
But that's the kicker: The turkey is always great! There's never been an instance of a real crapola bird being served at the Austin house.
And yet, no one can remember how it got that way the year before.
The argument goes something like this: Dad, fresh from reading one of those annoying "Effortless Thanksgiving" issues every food magazine publishes in November, says he thinks they should start the oven hot, then turn it down. Mom'll beg him not to do it, saying the skin'll get too dark too fast. Then they argue about aluminum foil (now? later?). This is all followed by five+ hours of people (me, I'll admit) popping into the kitchen to turn the oven up/down. Oh right, I forgot to tell you: The meat thermometers at our house never work. They might've been broken when they were bought.
And yet, somehow, the turkey always comes out exactly perfect: juicy, not-dry/not-raw. Two hours later than we thought it would.