How to Teach a Man to Cook

Before I met him, James’s cooking expertise extended to frozen pizzas and scrambled eggs. Yesterday, I came home to the sweet comforting smell of a whole chicken simmering in the slow cooker. I took a deep breath and thanked God for giving me such an awesome man to marry. He made it all by himself, and it was perfect.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been emailing him 4-step directions for making barbecue chicken thighs, tilapia, and baked salmon. He’s done an awesome job with all of them. A+.

That’s the secret really. Clear and direct directions. Don’t blabber. Tell him where the pans are located. Draw a picture of which way the chicken is supposed to face. And let him do it.

I’m so excited. Either tonight or tomorrow, we’re making chicken soup. And soon, maybe even tonight, I’ll teach him how to sauté. I can’t wait to see him this evening! Amazing how the level of my happiness is directly related to the amount of time I spend in cooking-related activities. It’s going to be an awesome weekend!

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New Year’s in Colonial Williamsburg

To ring in the New Year, James took me to Colonial Williamsburg. I have always loved that place. This time we both enjoyed it so much we even thought about moving there.
One of the most fascinating things about Williamsburg is the food. They really do their best to make you feel like you stepped back in time. Friday afternoon we had lunch at Shield’s Tavern. What an atmosphere! We were led down into a brick-walled cellar lit only with candle light, where a gentleman was playing 18th century tunes on a fiddle. It was so much fun!

Sunday morning we went to the Governor’s Palace and saw a woman cooking in the kitchen there. She was following an 18th century cookbook and using a huge fireplace to cook. She was telling us that one of the crazy things about cookbooks in the 18th century is that they leave out “obvious” details. For example, she was making a chocolate pudding, and the recipe didn’t mention sugar, because you’re supposed to know that it’s supposed to be sweet, and be smart enough to add sugar. She said a lot of the recipes are like that. They all say “Cook until done” instead of giving you actual times, for example.

To remember our gastronomical experiences at Williamsburg, we brought home Johnny Cake Mix, gingerbread cakes, Virginia sparkling cider, Virginia peanuts, and a cute kitchen towel with the tavern logos on it. I already have their Raleigh Tavern Bakery Cookbook.

If you’ve never been to Colonial Williamsburg, you really have to check it out. I can’t wait to go back!

Italian Christmas Feast

My family has a tradition of having a crazy awesome, 5 course Italian feast on Christmas day. Every year my mom would deck the halls and put out an extremely long table for 15-20 people, and I would spend 2 or 3 days cooking the most amazing food imaginable. For the first time in 5 or 6 years, I’m not cooking, and my parents no longer have a house with space for such a long table. In memory of the good ol’ days, here are the courses we used to have:

1. Antipasta: Imported Italian cold cuts (Prosciutto, Capacolla, Mortadella, Sopresatta), cheeses (Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina), my mom’s antipasta salad (roasted red pepper, mushroom, artichoke, capers), Aunt Annie’s tuna salad (with vinegar, not sure what else is in it but it was good), and Italian bread.

2. THE soup. It’s made with lamb and escarole, and comes from the village my mom’s grandmother is from (Rosetto Valfortore, near Foggia).

3. Homemade spaghetti, meatballs, and bracciole (Steaks pounded thin and rolled up with provolone and prosciutto. In Italy they call this involtini).

4. Salad. Usually we don’t have room for it, but we try to eat a few bites.

5. Pork roast. We try. Again, no room. Many years we end up skipping this or saving it for another day.

Dessert: cannoli, tiramisu, all kinds of pies, cookies, and my mom’s dream pie (Walnut crust, cream cheesey layer, chocolate pudding, cool whip, amazingness).

Someday when I have my own house, I’ll do this again. My aunt is doing something like this for us this year, but it’s not the same when it’s not at our house. I really do miss having a home. But it’s ok,  I WILL do this again someday. I hope it’s not too far in the future.