How to Be A Better Cook

Tammy Breitweiser

A story about food gossip

I can cook well but have been out of the habit lately. I do have a few signature dishes which makes it appear like I am a better cook than I actually am. Some of my recipes are ones that I have graciously stolen from friends and then made them my own. Some are fancier than others but all are delicious. Otherwise, what would be the point?

There might not be a perfect meal, but there are close to perfect recipes.

When talking to others, if you mention an unusual ingredient you have cooked with like bok choy then your cooking street cred goes way up. Having a few signature dishes makes it appear as if you are a better chef than you actually are. My husband is really good at taking what’s in the refrigerator and producing a meal out of it or taking leftovers and making it look completely different. I have not honed that particular cooking skill myself.

To be more familiar with unusual foods I have taken my young son to the store and we chose fruits and veggies we had never had before. We ate starfruit and dragon fruit and some fruit we nicknamed “alien fruit” because it had weird slime in the middle that was delicious.

What seems like another lifetime ago, I was a Pampered Chef consultant and worked my way through the cookbooks. The goal was to not only try new recipes but also practice cooking because I wanted to get better. I learned how different things went together to combine to have a new taste. I learned what lemon zest was used for and how baking needed to be exact. The first time I heard about working your way through a cookbook was when Calista Flockheart said in an interview she was working through a cookbook with her husband, Harrison Ford, one recipe at a time. It sounded romantic and fun.

Honing my cooking skills is intrinsically rewarding. At different times in my life the people I lived with were not so enthusiastic about my culinary adventures. He frequently did not eat the dishes I prepared not because it tasted bad but because it was the wrong mix of texture or used an ingredient that he didn’t like.

In my quest to be better at something I read. It is always my go to when I am curious. As with all my other obsessions, I have books that I refer to when thinking about any topic. Now I have expanded the digital repertoire to interesting websites as well. Michael Pollen is a popular food writer with In Defense of Food , and I enjoyed the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. It was a life experiment for her and she chose only 7 foods to eat for a period of time. Which of course made me think of the 7 foods I would choose and then make it a writing prompt.

There is an online magazine called Life & Thyme which has beautiful photography and articles about food. There was a whole issue about nostalgia and as I read I made notes of what food is nostalgic for me. Most of it is what my Oma used to make. I had forgotten so many dishes until I was reading someone else's writing. That often happens. Some ideas just seem to appear out of nowhere to me.

The food memoir MY BERLIN KITCHEN was written by a woman raised in Germany who had the knack to cook for her friends without a recipe. The idea of being able to make several things without a recipe that are more complicated than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich intrigues me. She writes about food that she makes for her friends. I imagine a time when people would come over and I could just whip up something with items from the fridge. I made her recipe for chicken with tomatoes and wine and shallots and garlic. I should have put it over noodles.

When I was living by myself I would stop at the store and see what struck my fancy and then I would use what I had in the fridge. Whatever protein was on sale was what I experimented with that evening. I made dinner for my parents. I tried new recipes on the weekend. Coconut bread, avocado taco salad, but nothing too crazy.

Food has become part of my family’s entertainment and it has been fun along the way! It is always fun to talk about food! Almost as much as book gossip! Is there food gossip?

Tammy Breitweiser is a writer and teacher who is a force of nature and woman of honor; seer of nuance; an accidental inspirationalist; a keeper of the little red doors, and a conjurer of everyday magic who is busy writing short stories. A future Minnesotan temporarily hiding in Indiana, her poetry has been published in The Storyteller Magazine and her flash fiction in The Ninja Writers Monthly and Elephants Never. Her essay is published in the I Wrote it Anyway anthology. She is a writer for the publication The Noteworthy Journal. You can connect with Tammy through Twitter @TLBREIT and her newsletter here!.

Tammy Breitweiser

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Tammy is force of nature; woman of honor; seer of nuance; ultra runner and ultra reader; & an accidental inspirationalist who writes.

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