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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is Cooking Becoming A Lost Art?

Please welcome my guest, Katherine Grey. For many of us, cooking with Mom is a treasured memory, Katherine uses that memory as a springboard to discuss her feelings about today’s tendency to avoid cooking. Like Katherine, I remember making cookies with my mom. Chocolate chip and peanut butter were my favorites, but Mom accused me of eating as much dough as I cooked. To this day, I love chocolate chip cookie dough.

 The young women of my nephew’s generation (he’s 21) seem to take great pride in the fact that they can’t cook or as they say, “can’t boil water.”  Why is that, I wonder? Did their mothers not teach them how to cook or about the immense feeling of satisfaction when you make a meal or bread or a cake or anything else from scratch? Did they not pass on the sense of pride one feels when given a compliment on how good something they’ve made tastes? Or perhaps their mothers never learned to cook themselves. It would be hard to pass on the art of cooking if one never learned themselves.

 Maybe I find the concept of not knowing how to cook so foreign because I was taught to cook by a mother who rarely used anything out of a box or can. I didn’t have a store-bought cookie until I was a teenager and was at a friend’s house. I’m only in my late thirties so it’s not like store-bought cookies were some new innovation.

 I was four years old the first time I made cookies with my mother. I remember kneeling on a dining room chair, helping my mom stir together the dry ingredients of a recipe, learning to crack an egg.  (She was smart enough to have me crack them in a separate bowl or else we would have eaten a lot of shell pieces with our cookies.) She taught me to use measuring cups and spoons by giving me my own bowl in which to measure flour, sugar, baking powder. Over the years we made all different kinds of cookies from chocolate chip, to peanut butter, to ginger snaps to oatmeal and more. As I grew older, I graduated from doing more watching than cooking to being responsible for mixing the dry ingredients together, to mixing them with the wet ingredients, to being able to take the hot pan from the oven (this was a big deal to a twelve-year old), to finally making the entire recipe by myself for the first time.

 Unfortunately, nowadays making cookies means buying a package from the refrigerated section of the grocery store and either breaking the pre-cut dough into pieces or slicing a log of dough into circles and tossing them in the oven. 

Baking cookies with my mother throughout the years is one of my fondest memories and maybe the reason why, as an adult, cookies are one of my favorite things to bake.

 When I do hear someone say they don’t know how to cook, I want to tell them they can learn. If you can read and follow directions, you can learn how to cook. Get a cookbook that looks interesting, read through the recipes, and choose one to try. This is how I made Coq Au Vin for the first time. Yes, I know how to cook but I’d never made it before and didn’t know anyone who had. The first time, the chicken came out a little dry.  The second time, the chicken stuck to the bottom of the pan, but the third time, it came out great. You can learn to cook. It just takes patience and practice.   

 And start with something easy. Like cookies.

 Oatmeal Walnut Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco shortening
1 egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts**
Small dish of granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together the first 6 ingredients (through the baking soda). Add the Crisco, egg, and vanilla to the bowl and beat well. Stir in the oats and nuts. Form into small balls. Dip the top of each ball in the dish of granulated sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes 3 ½ dozen cookies.

** I sometimes substitute craisins for the walnuts.

About Katherine Grey

At the age of four, Katherine pestered her mother to teach her to read. From that point on, she spent the most of her childhood lost in the pages of one book after another. Soon she began writing stories of her own, populated with characters doing all of the things she was too shy to even contemplate doing herself.

A chance meeting with another writer led Katherine to seriously pursue a writing career. Her debut novel, Impetuous, was released by The Wild Rose Press in August 2011.

Katherine lives in upstate NY with her family though she threatens to move south at the beginning of each winter season.

Visit her at

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