Jumping In

I am just going to jump right in and not look back. Yes, I will make this leap ahead and hope that the fuel of courage, curiosity, and love is enough to power through the obstacles of angst, doubt and vulnerability. I am no stranger to jumping into new territory. The first major jump was when I moved from California to New York to attend college- sight unseen. It felt more like a standing long jump over the Grand Canyon, but I made it across and have stayed in the New York area ever since.  One would think I would be good at it by now. However it has been my experience that with each dive into new waters, it is as if I am beginning all over again.

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Throughout all my new adventures in life there have always been a few constants. One constant has been my interest, appreciation and love for all things food and cooking related.  This passion, along with the urge to begin a new adventure, is nudging me forward to jump into the world of food blogging.

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I am a self taught cook. As a child I would watch my mother putter around the kitchen, and absorb her actions and intentions while she prepared our dinner. Occasionally, I would ask her a question and sometimes I was recruited to help. I remember mixing the meatloaf or basting the roast beef and potatoes, and feeling very important while I was squirting the pan juices over the meat. The warm smell of the roasting beef and rosemary filled our kitchen while Mom would look over my shoulder at the roast and say, “This is going to be soooo yummy.” (Yes, she did talk that way).  For the most part, other than my helping hands basting and mixing, I was left alone to figure out the secrets and skills of cooking.

 

poached egg jumping in

Mom was also a self-taught cook because her mother died when she was only a child. She often talked about the first time she made breakfast for my father while on their honeymoon. Mom was asked to make poached eggs for him, and she remarked that she had no idea what to do. She explained that she had read that you should use vinegar to poach an egg. As a young bride wanting to impress her loving husband, she did just that. My father remembered that morning too, and how awful the egg tasted.  I have this childhood vision of mom pouring a whole bottle of vinegar in the pan, the fumes and smell of the vinegar overwhelming the kitchen and my mother.  She was mortified from that first experience, but determined to improve. That first family breakfast became a funny family story which mom could joke about as the years rolled by. Although, if she did use the whole bottle of vinegar she created her first original recipe, pickled poached eggs: one that she would never repeat again. To this day I am not sure exactly what happened, whether she used a combination of water and vinegar (which is a common practice for poaching), or some other unknown method, but that “mistake” stuck with her and fortunately did not deter her. Eventually, through trial and error, failures and success, beginners find their way.

Agnes Wilson with Mary Agnes (Mom) 1926Mother and young daughter in lap on front step.

Unlike mom, I had my whole childhood to observe, play, and develop my culinary curiosity. Through observation I was able to absorb the workings of the kitchen along with the sights, sounds, and smells of the various ingredients of the family meal.  I do not believe it occurred to mom to intentionally teach me the ins and outs of cooking and pass down the family culinary heirlooms of her childhood. She did not have that mentorship, or the recipes. I imagine after her mother died, cooking and eating in her family became a formality and was performed in a dutiful manner. Alongside mom’s children and husband she learned the joy of cooking, and family dinners did not have to be formal affairs. I do not believe she ever licked her plate as a child, but she more than made up for that loss of experience as an adult.

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I was always welcomed in the kitchen when mom was cooking, or to do something on my own. Casual conversations would develop along with the dinner preparations. I could help out, or play. I often liked to go through the spice cabinet and smell all the spices and memorize them. Mom never said “No” to my attempts to join her. She rarely varied her weekly menu and if she needed a hand, I could jump right in. I was always hanging around wanting to be helpful and soon mom gave me the nickname “Little Mother”. This term of endearment was not one I enjoyed, but I knew it was one of her many ways of showing me her love and appreciation.

No matter how anyone gets their start in the kitchen, what counts is that you start and then keep going. Mistakes will be made, but that is OK as it is part of the process. I am grateful to mom for welcoming me in and giving me the space to play and experiment in our family kitchen.  I hope that I have in turn provided an open door for my children as well. As I begin my new journey as a blogger, I need to remind myself of this mantra: Jump in, this is a learning process, keep going.

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© 2016, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Jumping In”

  1. Ging, I am really impressed with your efforts here. Looking forward to reading more and learning some of your hard earned cooking “secrets.” Loved the Jumping In section, and your descriptions of learning to cook hanging on to Mom’s apron, so to speak. What I remember about her cooking when I was a kid was that she quite often burned the frozen peas. But she persevered, and became such a good cook. Her leg of lamb with those incredible roasted potatoes, her beef strognanoff, to name a few of her legendary recipes. It’s wonderful to be reminded how food and family dinners were such a big part of our family tradition. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Rusty I am glad you enjoyed the story. I was just thinking about mom’s burnt vegetables today while I was reading a recipe that involves burning the vegetables before you mix them all up to create a delicious salad. Who would have thought that mom was ahead of her time.

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