I love to cook, and have an enthusiastic audience in my family, who have many favorites. They love my enchiladas, chile beans, apple pie, North Douglas Chocolate Cake, spaghetti and meatballs, posole, Mrs. Sagimori's Chow Mein, etc. Other things that I cook that meet a less enthusiastic response are my tuna casserole, hamburger stroganoff and oven fried chicken, old tried and true (and less expensive) offerings.
I love to cook and I learned from one of the best: my mother. Charles jokes that she had some sort of special oil in her hands that flavored her cooking to taste better than anyone else's. When I cook something that Mom taught me to make, such as enchiladas, posole or chile beans, I can almost feel her at my elbow, telling me to add more of this or that (usually salt, as she loved salt).
Once, when she was visiting, she was making chicken soup and was salting it when the lid of the salt shaker fell off and she dumped the entire shaker full into the soup. It was like the Dead Sea - I swear we could have floated a brick in it. She insisted that we could just "cut up a potato in it" to soak up the excess salt, but it was completely inedible. This was the only cooking failure of Mom's that I can remember, although there must have been more.
I tend to cook like she did, more by feel than anything else. I do like to try new recipes, but once I've made something, I like to fiddle around with it and try to make it my own. I won't be brought to a standstill because I don't have an ingredient or two, I'll just throw something else in and see what happens.
Mom could make 20 apple pies at a time from the four apple trees that we had in the backyard. She would mix up the pie dough without measuring anything, put me to work peeling and slicing apples and build the pies, one at a time, until we would have pies stacked up like cord wood in the freezer. In the middle of winter, she would reach into the freezer in the morning, and pull out a pie to thaw. We'd have warm apple pie for dessert. It seemed miraculous to me, and still does.
I was intimidated at first by her seemingly effortless skill at pie crust making - so much so, that after my first failure, I gave up and resorted to Pillsbury pie crusts, until we hit a low patch financially and since homemade pie crust is cheaper than store bought, I tried it again. Bingo! It worked! During the Pillsbury years, I managed to pull the wool over people's eyes when they asked me how I made my crust. I would tell them: "My mother always told me to make sure the water is really cold". Which she did. But now I know from experience that she was right: the water does have to be really cold; it is best to use a pastry blender and not handle it too much; don't make the crust too thick; and waxed paper works just as well as a pastry mat.
Like I said, I love to cook. I love to cook for large groups of people, mostly because, like Mom did, I love a party. I love to cook for our family and a guest or two because having a good conversation over a good meal is such a pleasure. I love to cook for just the two of us because Charles and I are usually in the kitchen together and it's nice to have the time to chat and chop at the same time.
I love to cook because food is love. Mom taught me that.