Mary Ann, The City Cousin

Here’s the long and short of it.  I have been born, raised and educated in Northern Ohio. Currently, I live in Central Ohio, Columbus, to be precise. My earliest cooking memories are of my mom in the kitchen and me just hanging around talking and making a general pest out of myself.  As I got a little older, she would ask me what was going on in school and I would tell her, probably ad nauseum. She didn’t care. Actually, it probably helped us bond. I never did figure out why some people shooed their kids out of the kitchen.  I don’t know where I’d be if she’d done that to me. You probably wouldn’t be reading this because it wouldn’t be here.

My mom never “taught” me to cook.  I watched her make the same dishes over, and over, and over, and…    Well, you get the idea.  She used to do these things she called “ground meat Saturdays”. She would cook most of the day and make several dishes; meataballs in sauce, beefaroni (aka, Johnny Marzetti’s), meat loaf and stuffed cabbage.  Voila, dinners for the week.  As I got older, I got to help.  I thought that was cool.  First, she would let me stir.  Then I was allowed to measure stuff.  I was assigned to grind the nuts for the nut rolls and nut horns at Christmas. And that was with a hand grinder that clamped on the edge of the table.  I got to slice apples for the apple pie.  And that was way before Cuisinarts. Did you ever try to slice an apple on a box grater.  It was a progression of responsibility.

mary-annMy first big break came when my uncle and aunt came to town and my mom invited them to dinner but had to work.  It fell to me.  I was instructed to make fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  I’m sure there were other things but that’s all I remember.  I think I was in my mid-teens.  My mom just said she knew I could do it and if I had a problem to call her.  I don’t remember exactly why, but the only problem I had was I kept blowing fuses.

Dinner was a success and my aunt was impressed.

As I got older, I would help out in the kitchen or was told what to make for dinner when Mom was working.  Needless to say, I was not particularly adventurous at that age.   I stuck with the basics.

Basically, I learned a lot of my basics through osmosis.

There wasn’t much cooking in my life until well after I got out of college.  I didn’t have a lot of time in High School or College for cooking.  Once I got out on my own, I continued  to stick with the basics to feed myself.  I loved to eat, so I started to try different things.  At first, I didn’t want anyone in the kitchen while I was cooking.  I was afraid they would see mistakes or they were better cooks than I was.  Not any more.  I love to have people in my kitchen while I cook, as long as they’re not in my way.   I make them stay on the other side of the counter.   Sometimes, I almost feel like I’m on stage.    Did I mention I was a Speech and Theater major?

Slowly but surely, my cooking improved.  I learned more techniques.  I bought cook books.  I read.  I watched cooking shows.  My cooking improved.  The cycle continues to this day.  And then there are the AH-HA moments.  Those moments when clarity emerges from the fog and all is revealed.  Slow cooking was one, finding that really good ribs involved a two-step process was another.  They have been many and they continue to occur.

At one point, not all that long ago,  I found myself underemployed.  While I was trying to find another job, I cooked, and I cooked, and I cooked.  And each time, it got better and better and better.  I would try something and then decide what I’d do different the next time.  The progression continues.  I continue to read, cook, watch and cook some more.  If I like a recipe, I’m pretty sure I can make it better next time.  At least, I can adjust it to my tastes.

So here I am.  I’m launching a blog with my cousin, who is awesome in her own right.  I have more cook books than I can count, but I will continue to acquire them.  I have downloaded more recipes from the web than I could possibly try in my life time, but I will continue to download.  I have bags full of recipes I have torn out of the paper, but I continue to tear out more.  I continue to collect recipes and watch various methods because I never know when inspiration will strike.

My personal theory on cooking, my reason(s) for this blog and the things I will try to keep in mind include:  I hope to be able to impart my love of cooking and getting a good meal on the table; while you can do a lot from scratch, sometimes you just need to get a dish on the table or make dinner for your family;  if there’s a short cut that will get you to make something that you ordinarily wouldn’t make, take it;  you will not necessarily like everything I like;  the first time you try a recipe, try it the way it is written (pretty much, anyway) and then make it your own next time.

And always remember, bring your family to the table for a meal and grow it, cook it, share it, love it.


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