“Ain’t no cookin’ like Mama’s cookin’!”-Amen!
Recently, an idea struck me. I cook…okay, I cook a lot. A lot of the meals that I create are either of my own creation, or they are a variation of another recipe that I have learned. For instance, my husband’s favorite meal is Steak Chicana-a lovely steak and potato stir fry of sorts. Well, I learned this family recipe from his sister, Gloria. She painstakingly showed me step by step how to create this dish from my husband’s childhood, and he was SO happy to have me learn it.
Well, I didn’t write anything down-I figured, ‘why?’ there were only a few basic ingredients, and some cooking common sense so it didn’t really warrant being recorded on paper-and I’m sure many of you have felt that way about a recipe you have learned, or heard about, right? Now, fast forward 6 years and place the exact same ingredients in front of my sister in law and myself, give us the same amount of time, and you know what you get? Two very different dishes! I can not tell you how many times my sweet husband has looked at me and said, “That’s really good…but its not steak chicana!”
I’m a big girl, so it doesn’t hurt my feelings-I have simply accepted that I make Steak Olea. I understand the importance of passing down heirloom recipes and essentially a little piece of yourself, especially because my mother and I have never had much of a relationship, so I didn’t have anyone to hand down recipes and traditions. Believe me when I say, when I first was married, my husband ate raw fried chicken for dinner on more than one occasion! I simply didn’t know what I was doing, or any technique for doing it. I want my children to be able to move out of my house and cook themselves a nice warm bowl of home, so I am writing all of my precious recipes down and assembling my very own top secret cookbook.
I’ll admit, at first, the idea of writing down each one of my regular and specialty recipes sounded like a huge undertaking-but then I developed a system. All you really need is a notebook and a pen. I keep mine beside my oven as I cook, and as I add an ingredient, I jot it down and how much of it I used. This is a huge help for those of us who mostly cook from the heart and really don’t know how much of this we put into that. Once you have all of the ingredients jotted down, you go back later that night or later in the week and go through the recipe mentally, writing down the steps, and bam! You’ve written your own recipe. The next time you are cooking that dish, try cooking it according to your recipe to make sure that it’s accurate. I did, and it worked, much to my amazement-but what really amazed me was how having it all spelled out in front of me made it even easier for me to make my own dishes.
Try to pick out recipes that are traditional, those that are regulars in your household, and those that your children particularly love. This way, when they are going off to college, to be married or even after they begin having children of their own, they will have a little piece of you with them coaching them, teaching them, and comforting them no matter where you are.