Here's a story to prove my point (and this is in no way an indictment of my mother, who I do recall showing me on occasion how to make food happen...I just literally was not inclined to make it myself since I didn't have to. We rarely went out to eat as mom really cooked a lot...so I learned a bit by osmosis...anyway...here's the sad, sad story.):
I was an older teenager (maybe 17 or so?) and sitting in the living room as my mom was making dinner...spaghetti with meat sauce if I remember correctly. She had to go do something...maybe take an important phone call or use the bathroom...anyway...she had to leave and asked me to continue browning the ground beef.
I panicked. "Um....how do I know if it's done?"
"It will be brown," she matter-of-factly said.
I cringed. "But, what if I let it go too long? What do I do?"
She sighed in exasperation. "I won't even be gone that long, just keep stirring it!" And she left.
And I was alone with the skillet and pinkish brown meat.
I can't even describe the ridiculousness of my anxiety of ruining our dinner while she was MIA for all of about 2 minutes. I kept stirring and looking fertively towards the hallway into which I had last seen her go. My palms were sweaty, my thoughts simultaneously envisioning spaghetti with no meat in our sauce, (which in my mind, wasn't worth eating) and berating me for not knowing how to cook ANYTHING. I kept stirring and hoping for relief.
Finally, she returned and took the spatula and I walked away in shame.
So, I think I've come a long way since then. There was college, where I learned to eat healthier with the assistance of a meal plan and a salad bar. And hummus wraps with tomato and sprouts! Those two things were my lifeline freshman year. Then came apartment living junior and senior year, and with it wonderful apartment-mates who were domestically inclined, so I was able to, um...mooch would probably be an accurate word here. They didn't seem to mind, and if they did, and are reading this, I am appropriately ashamed and sorry for my blissful and yummy existence as your roommate.
Anyway...when Jeremiah came along, there was a lot of time spent in front of the TV watching Food Network while he sucked the life out of me. Favorites at the time were Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada de Laurentiis. I was able to get into my head what cooking was all about, what flavors worked with what raw ingredients, and how to manipulate basic recipes to fit what I actually had in the pantry. I mean, there were literally days of Food Network. By the 5th time I'd seen a roux made for gravy/white sauce/stew....I began to put some things together. I began cooking every night, and I stopped wondering why things didn't taste quite right and fixing it so they were edible. I think Jon was happier too.
Well, if you've made it this far, I'm going to assume you are interested in what cookbooks and recipes are the ones I have come to use most in the last year or so. I feel that, as a family, we now have dishes that we habitually eat month to month, as well as ones that I can count on to be crowd-pleasers. Here are my humble recommendations:
Giada de Laurentiis has amazing, fresh, easy food. She has created an empire that makes Italian food easy for americans to cook. Her cookbook Giada's Family Dinners is so good...I love so much of it. She is also a very fun personality - Italian through and through, very easygoing and joyful, beautiful, stylish in dress and in home. Jon doesn't like her because he thinks she showcases too much of her...assets. (I am trying to put it nicely...did it work?) Doesn't bother me, but I'm not a guy trying not to look. :) There are literally over a hundred recipes, and I haven't gotten to all of them, but they look fantastic. My favorite recipes in this book are: