When we moved to Finland, for some reason I felt like I reverted back to being a novice cook. The simplest dish took enormous effort. It wasn’t even just an issue with finding the ingredients or figuring out the oven and stove controls – for whatever reason, I had trouble even chopping vegetables. I think it was because I had so much trouble finding items I took for granted – chicken stock, condensed cream of mushroom soup, spices, even chicken – that my cooking skills deserted me.
I’ve gotten better. I now try to remember to translate words before going to the grocery store. I know where to find certain staples, and have adapted to others. Chicken stock, for example, doesn’t come in cans or boxes, it comes as this gelatinous blob that you have to add boiling water to. I cooked a couple of batches up and froze it in half cup increments for future use. I’ve found just about any spice I’ve needed, by remembering to translate into Finnish. I still haven’t found condensed cream of mushroom soup, though – looks like I’m going to have to try to make that myself…
Growing up, I didn’t cook much. Looking back, I know the reasons for that were (a) my mom was a great cook, and I couldn’t hope to be any better, and (b) I was afraid of messing up. Once I made spaghetti for the family. I like things a little spicy, so decided to add some cayenne to the sauce. A lot of cayenne, actually. My dad was sweating, but he ate every bit of it, the trooper. But that episode stuck with me.
I was also a very picky eater growing up. The only vegetable I liked was corn. Thank goodness my tastes have changed, and I am now a very adventurous eater. And I never eat corn anymore.
Several years ago, I accidentally joined a cooking club. Accidentally? Yes. You see, I responded to a craigslist ad for a Dinner Club, which I thought would be people getting together to go out to different restaurants around town. I later found out that the dinner would be what we cooked. Why not, I thought. And I loved that cooking club. We purposely set out to try new things, different cuisines and techniques and ingredients we hadn’t worked with before. I made Irish Candy, and Dolmathes, and a Thai dessert, and Coq au Vin. Okay, it was a “quick” Coq au Vin, but I made it.
But there were still things I was scared to try. Things I didn’t have the time for.
Now’s the time.
I’m setting out on a Personal Kitchen Challenge. I hope to try something new each week. Cooking things I haven’t tried to cook before, working with ingredients I’ve been scared to work with in the past. Making more difficult dishes. Doing more with ethnic food. I’m going to push myself. My dear, sweet, wonderful husband will eat whatever I put in front of him…except for brussels sprouts.
I hope you’ll follow along!
I have a board on Pinterest where I’m pinning my Kitchen Challenge ideas. I’m always looking for more. Do you have a suggestion on something I should try? Something you think is difficult or that will push me? Leave it in the comments!!