Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Experiment (02/16/12)
TITLE: A Little Bit of This and a Little bit of That
By Shanta Richard
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Then I heard it – a tiny beep from a baby bird. I peered into the branches of a nearby tree and there I saw the bird’s nest. The baby bird had its mouth wide open. The mother was sitting on the edge of the nest. She had her mouth full and was chewing. Then she dropped the food into the baby’s open mouth. Isn’t this what all mothers do, I wondered. We bring the food and prepare it so that our children enjoy and relish it. The bird mother did it in her mouth and we do it in our kitchen. This is what cooking is all about.
So I returned to my Easter lunch menu. Since the day the first cave woman roasted the meat on the fire cooking has come along way. It has developed into a fine art. So0 much so that with a click of a button on your, computer you can get recipes from all over the world. Down the years the cave woman’s simple recipe had sparked into a myriad of complicated ones. Once I watched a TV program and was amazed to see cooks preparing edible dishes from any creature that crawls, creeps, walks, flies or swims- from a butterfly to an octopus!
Once again I pulled my thoughts back to my Easter menu. First of all I have to confess that I am not a good cook and I am incapable of following a recipe. As a teenager I learnt cooking from my grand mother in India. In those days, in India, we did not have any printed cook books. Recipes were handed over from generation to generation by word of mouth.
I was told by my grand mother that you learnt to cook by using your five senses and by experimentation – trial and error method. It was interesting the way she taught me to use these skills:-
Touch – As you knead the flour for making bread you feel the correct consistency by using your finger tips.
Hearing – Liquids make different sounds as they heat up – you must distinguish between simmering and boiling.
Smell – You should smell the lovely flavor of food cooking and the horrible odor of food burning.
Sight – A perfectly cooked roast has a beautiful golden brown color. An uncooked chicken breast is yellowish outside and pink inside. Learn the difference color makes in your cooking.
Taste – Tasting you dish is a continuing process. You taste at every stage of your cooking. Rectify each mistake as you go by experimenting by adding a little bit of this or a little bit of that until it reaches that state of perfection you dream of.
In the absence of any standard measurements and guidelines it is challenging to cook a delicious meal. I learnt by experimenting. If the salt was too much I would add a potato, if the gravy was too watery, I would add some flour to thicken it – and so on. But when it was burnt beyond redemption I would have to throw it in the garbage and start all over again. I learnt to always keep a good supply of bread, butter, eggs and milk handy. My grand mother told me to never throw my apron on my head and sit in the corner and cry. ‘Remember,’ she would say, ‘it is okay to serve bread and milk when all is lost. Mrs. Marsh, in “Little Women” served her four girls just that on Christmas day’. (Only she didn’t burn the food she gave it away).
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