Usually, whenever someone is complaining about the cold and snow that makes up an Upper Peninsula winter, I'll be the first to (annoyingly?) chime in about how much I love the winter season. Just a few weeks ago I was complaining about there not being enough snow.
Last weekend, however, when it was five different kinds of gross weather out (snow, freezing rain, wind, grey skies and cold), I couldn't quite bring myself to embrace the outdoors with my normal degree of enthusiasm, and decided to hole up in my apartment with a sack of groceries and a new recipe.
For a long time, my cooking revolved around homemade pizza and chocolate chip cookies, which remain two of my specialties, by the way, but since I've moved out on my own I've tried to expand my repertoire somewhat.
I like to eat and I like to eat food that tastes good, so I pretty much have had to start learning my way around my apartment's kitchen. Not having all the time in the world, however, the chance to putter around the kitchen for a day is really kind of a treat for me.
Food is fascinating. A few years ago, when I was doing a study abroad in France, I started wandering through grocery stores, just to see what different brands and types of food there were. When I came back to the states, I realized that American grocery stores are just as interesting to walk through.
That, combined with my slight obsession with The Food Network and cookbooks, has allowed me to be increasingly successful at feeding myself over the past couple years.
I've moved from scrambled eggs to making my own spaghetti sauce. I've familiarized myself with couscous, how to chop onions without slicing my fingers and can use quinoa (a type of grain from South America) to varying degrees of success.
My most recent cooking adventure was black beans - dried, not from a can - and beets. The beets were slightly crunchy and the beans might not qualify for any awards besides providing me with fiber and protein, but they're edible and I'm fairly happy with the result.
Not everyone can be Bobby Flay or Rachel Ray, being a celebrity chef certainly isn't my goal. I'm cooking for an audience of one. If something doesn't quite come out right, that's fine. It's not like my freezer doesn't already contain a few containers of my earlier food experiments that I'm hoping to never have to actually defrost and eat.
While I have no doubt some lucky people might just be born with a natural talent for mixing flavors and presenting works of culinary genius, I was not.
Every time I get to spend time with the stove, however, I feel like I get a bit better at it.
Like a lot of things, you don't learn how to cook by not doing it.
Editor's note:?Mining Journal Ishpeming Bureau reporter Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.