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Beginner's Heart

the author's

the author’s

I owe today to my Great-Aunt Bonnie. While she didn’t exactly teach me to cook, she certainly had a big part in teaching me to love food. I can’t remember a single meal she prepared (and there were many) that I didn’t love.

When I married, and left for the unknown wilds of Algeria, Aunt Bonnie insisted I take good knives and a real cookbook. Like many American girls of my generation, I’d been given a red&white chequered Better Homes & Gardens cookbook when I went to college.  Why, I have no idea, as there was no place to cook in the dorm I would call home for two years.

I took Joy of Cooking to Algiers, and was grateful every day that I had it. The first time I was handed a dead chicken, feathers-head-feet-innards-and-all, I went home, and in tears perused how to pluck, gut, and cut up a chicken.

the author's

the author’s

Note: the bile duct is NOT obvious. All of the instructions were in JoC, and boy did the knives prove their worth. I made chili, and chicken soup, and meat loaf, and potatoes and so many other things. Even the Algerian cuisine, like lamb tshorba, flavoured w/ cinnamon.

From then on, I cooked. The dumb freshman who set her beloved’s apartment on fire cooking blossomed into the wife who could make the catsup to make the bbq sauce for the chicken she now knew how to cut properly. Eventually, I could make anything in a cookbook, and phrases like ‘sweat the vegetables gently’ or ‘fold the butter in gently’ were as clear as mother tongue.

Today, nothing was that complex. A roast cooked gently for hours, so that the fat melted unctuously into the meat. A baked potato. Some fresh broccoli sautéed in olive oil, w/ a bit of garlic, salt, & pepper. That’s it. Just plain food. Aunt Bonnie would be proud. And if you subbed green beans for broccoli, it might well have been something from her stove. Even the roast was cooked in the cast iron skillet she used almost daily, for years.

the author's

the author’s

I’m grateful for her guidance, her modeling, the cookbook, even the year of learning the hard way how to cook almost anything. Do I bother these days? Rarely. But there’s something very comforting about knowing I can make what I need to — from a plain roast perfectly seasoned & braised, to a pumpkin pie. After all, the season of home cooking is upon us.

Thanks, Aunt Bonnie. I’m grateful for you most of all — for years my everyday fairy godmother. The only way you would ever make it into a list of everyday blessings.

 

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