Several years ago, while still a student and a lowly intern, I was putting together Alton Brown's peanut seared chicken strips for what must have been the fifth time. As with all of his recipes, the dish was already damned tasty, but this time I had the idea to add just a splash of soy sauce to the marinade. Later that night, as I bit into the morsels of chicken, the difference was surprising, and elevated the flavor so much that I couldn't help but quickly devour the rest and whip up another batch of the marinade for tomorrow.
Being able to cook for myself to stay healthy, as well as sharing my recipes and food with friends, is maybe one of my most valuable skills. Throughout my adult life, no matter how stressful, complicated, or tough things get, I always have control over what I'm eating. This has meant easily shifting my diet to deal with medical and health issues, as well as adjusting recipes to accommodate the myriad of food restrictions the people in my life navigate every day.
Cooking has been a way to say thanks, to say I love you, to bond with people close to me, to contribute at festivals and charity events, to help friends through depression, and to celebrate triumphs between the day to day.
My mother set the standard for flavorful, healthy, fresh made food in the home as far back as I can remember. So when I left for college it took only a few weeks to get fedup with the cafeteria, frozen food, and delivery food that me and my classmates were consuming. I grabbed a few cookbooks, took advantage of Google, and did what i could with an old, abused electric stove in my 4 bedroom apartment. And while one of my roommates was discovering that putting a leftover pizza box directly in the oven resulted in smoke, I started with the basics. Pasta, rice, ground beef, and chicken breasts. Okay maybe the occasional Bertolli pre-made pasta dish, because come on, $6.99 for two meals that actually taste good, take 10 minutes, and aren't half as bad for you as the rest of the frozen food aisle? I was broke and needed time to study.
Fast forward a few years later and I'm slinging fried chicken quesadillas, asian inspired burritos with grilled steak pieces drizzled with a soy and sesame oil dressing tossed into fried rice, making my first risotto and being astounded how different the rice tastes while drinking the wine it was cooked in, and experimenting with making my own Alfredo sauce. Around this time I stumbled upon the websites Endless Simmer and Chasing Delicious. This, along with watching Alton Brown reruns, helped me move from following recipes like a robot, to experimenting more like a proper cook.