It's one of those classic stories from my childhood that I'm still teased about - one time while trying to make chocolate chip cookies with my best friend, we didn't read the recipe correctly and put a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the batch instead of a 1/2 teaspoon. Salty and disgusting, it was determined that I was not a baker.
Over the years I've learned how to cook various things, and when provoked, I really can cook a nice meal. Problem is, I'm not provoked enough and the "kitchen" in my studio apartment is literally the size of a small recessed closet, so it's extremely difficult to make anything of substance in there. I'm a work in progress and still waiting to figure out what kind of cook I'll be when I "grow up."
My mom is what I'd call a good midwestern cook - she loves the crock pot, her top dishes are meatloaf, chili, baked mac 'n cheese, and homemade soups/stews, and she's known for her crunchy fudge sandwiches (a butterscotch and chocolate version of rice krispie treats - yum). And somehow, she didn't know until about 5 years ago that garlic came in other varieties than powdered seasoning. My dad is the grill master - he loves his classic Weber charcoal grill, and uses any opportunity to bbq. Every year we do our Thanksgiving turkey on the grill in fact, and it never disappoints.
In college, I dated an Italian guy, and discovered all sorts of delicious foods I hadn't been exposed to previously. I never thought I'd learn to like anchovies or olives, and never realized just how delicious a good veal cutlet was. My stomach grew 3 sizes while we were together. I acquired so many great recipes from his grandma and impressed my Irish/German/French/Dutch/English family (I'm basically the European Union) on vacations with alige, mashed chi-chi beans, zucchini pie, and sauteed vegetables.
Living in France, I learned the value of eating real things versus synthetic and processed foods. There is no substitute for real butter, herbs, cream and sugar - if you're gonna do something, do it right. Helping the chef Bernard in the kitchen of the monastery in the mountains, I saw the care he put into each dish, and the joy of creating a meal from scratch and presenting it to others.
I try to take something from all the great cooks that have touched my life, but I've never conquered baking. I don't have as much interest in it (I have a latent sweet tooth, and I'm a mindless eater, so it's best for me not to make or buy sweet treats) and I'm always afraid of screwing it up. With cooking, you can sort of fudge your way through things, but not so with baking - one little mistake and the whole thing gets messed up!
This Thanksgiving, however, I decided to learn to make a pie. I wanted to pick an interesting one to be my sort of "signature." I decided on Southern Pecan Pie. Yes I knowww it's like one of the sweetest, worst-for-you pies, but if you only eat it once a year, it can't be that bad. Plus, it's delicious, not your basic apple pie, and reminds me of my Florida roots and my Aunt Regina that used to always make it for holidays growing up. And guess what - it was easy and I didn't mess it up! Maybe I can bake after all!
Here's my Aunt's recipe:
2/3 c. sugar
dash of salt
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 c. broken/chopped pecans
1 nine-inch unbaked pie crust
Beat eggs thoroughly. Add sugar, salt, corn syrup, vanilla, butter and continue mixing with a whisk or hand mixer on low setting until it starts to foam/bubble (about 5-10 minutes).
Layer the bottom of the pie crust with pecans. Make sure the bottom is completely covered and that no pie crust shows through. Pour mixture over pecans (the pecans will rise to the top).
Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes and voila - all done!
I admit I used a pre-made Pillsbury pie crust, though. One step at a time people!