Looking Back. Regrets? I've Had A Few. - Learning To Cook Blog at Allrecipes.com - 301828

Learning To Cook

Looking Back. Regrets? I've Had A Few. 
Apr. 30, 2013 5:24 am 
Updated: May 2, 2013 9:45 am
I've had an interest in cooking and baking as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my mom bake bread and dinner rolls. I also remember her scratch made chocolate cakes with chocolate frosting. Imagine frosting that doesn't come out of a can! Scratch made frosting is sadly, quite the novelty in most homes. I don't remember ever helping mom make bread or cakes or cookies. One Christmas she did let me help decorate sugar cookies. That was fun!

It was my paternal grandmother who really encouraged me to help with baking. I was also her under aged bartender, but that is a different story! Again, it was always Christmas time. I remember standing on a small footstool at the counter and measuring and mixing for Ginger Snaps. "Don't mix too long or you'll mix the goodness right out of the dough!" This is the woman who taught me to play Canasta and would say, "Don't shuffle the deck so long or you'll shuffle the colors right off of the cards!" Grandma Bennetta was my friend, and I miss her. She would talk to me as though I were human, not quite adult, but human. She never spoke down to me. And she was so stinking cool! My grandfather died young and left her to raise two boys through the depression on her own. She owned a small gas station in North West Minnesota. She hunted to put meat on the table and also to chase varmints out of their substantial garden. I remember when she was 80 years old, (her last year hunting) she got 12 grouse with 12 shots, but one of them she had to chase through the brush because she only winged the little sucker!

Grandma inspired me to force my way into the kitchen and start cooking for my family. Mom and dad always complimented me on the meals I made, but never encouraged me to be in the kitchen. I know. I'm whining. It's so unbecoming an adult. Mommy and daddy didn't appreciate me. Boo hoo.

And then there was high school. I fell into a group of friends who did dinner parties instead of drugs. What an odd, eclectic, group of people we were. I think my fondest memory, besides the impromptu jam sessions tapping plates and glasses with our spoons and getting complex rhythms going was the day Ray and I created the "Blob." The Blob was a lasagna we put together in a rather large turkey roasting pan. It was probably a 24" x 18" x 4" pan that was almost overflowing with noodles, cheese and sauce. As we served it up to our friends, it became apparent to us that the level of the lasagna was not going down. It seemed that it was healing from the massive gouges we were putting into it! And thus the legend of the eternal lasagna was born.

After high school I went to the University of Minnesota and after 3 quarters the Dean of my college wrote me a lovely letter saying that he thought I might want to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. Then he invited me to not come back to University until after that thought process bore fruit. That process took seven years and nearly took me to a Cook/Chef program at a local Votech.

Once I decided that I couldn't make a decent living without some sort of education, I looked to my passions. I had to be a chef. It was who I was. I went to the Votech (the only cooking school I knew of at the time) and took a barrage of aptitude tests even though I was only interested in the culinary program. The only instructor who approached me after the testing was done was the instructor who dealt in sheet metal fabrication. He tried to get me to change my path, but I told him, "I want to cook, I don't want to make boxes!" He had never seen anyone score as high as I had in whatever tests were important to him. I didn't care. I was accepted into the cook/chef program, given my list of things that I needed to purchase, and given my start date. The night before classes started I had a horrible nightmare that ended with me as a fry cook at the local Sambo's (now Denny's). And that's how I ended up with a degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology.

That is also the source of my greatest regret. I didn't believe in myself. Of all people, I should have been the one to encourage myself, to trust my passion, and to take a risk. There are obvious benefits to having made the decision I made. I would not have my beautiful children. I would not be married to the most caring, giving, loving woman on the face of the Earth. But I am not a chef, and I never will be. I don't have the stamina to work as a chef. I thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion after Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people. I can't imagine doing ten times that every day.
Apr. 30, 2013 6:00 am
What an awesome testimony Doc!!
Apr. 30, 2013 6:17 am
Testimony? Thanks! I was thinking to myself as I was selecting tags for this post, "Why isn't there a 'hot air' tag?" ;)
Apr. 30, 2013 6:48 am
Ah Doc, you're wrong. You ARE a chef!!! Being a chef has nothing to do with a paycheck or title. It has everything to do with passion and a commitment to the highest standard possible. Those you have in spades so,a chef is what you are! Now make me Eggs Benedict. :o)
Apr. 30, 2013 6:53 am
When my 8 year old GD was over baking cupcakes a couple of weeks ago, she was amazed when it came time to frost them. I had her put Crisco, confectionary sugar and a little milk in a bowl, stir it until it was smooth, then add a splash of vanilla. "Ours comes out of a can," she said. When her father came to pick her up and she told him about how she made the frosting from scratch, he said,"And did you dip your finger in to taste and see if it had enough vanilla?" That was a memory from his frosting making days in my kitchen.
Apr. 30, 2013 7:15 am
Cheepchick, I am horrified to admit that I have never made a Hollandaise sauce, although I have mixed one from a mean envelope!
Apr. 30, 2013 7:18 am
Sweet Cook, thank you for making me smile! Great story.
Apr. 30, 2013 4:45 pm
I have often thought we approach higher education incorrectly. Honestly, at 17 or 18 most kids don't know what they want to do for the next 50 years. We pay enormous sums of money for a degree that either becomes superfluous or a ticket to a career that is simply the means to pay bills. Sometime I'll tell you just how useful mine was. Regret should be something only felt in short bursts. Let it be the stimulating factor to propel you forward. I can imagine you opening a small, quirky bistro that ends up featured on DDD. Meanwhile, savor the chance you have to prepare and enjoy the best meals in your own home.
Apr. 30, 2013 5:05 pm
BSM, that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Thank you so much for that. My kids asked me, "Dad? Why are you blushing?" So I shared your comment with them. They agree with you, and want to see me pursue this. Anything is possible, even if not everyone involved has buy in. Objections are meant to be overcome! I wonder if I can talk my wife into letting me take a course in coffee roasting followed by a culinary short course?
May 1, 2013 3:08 am
Doc - You are a chef - and like someone said above that title has nothing to do with paycheck or skills! If you truly do regret not having pursued culinary school - get busy - you have plenty of time to do so! This is a great blog and made me wish I knew you and your group of friends back in the day - never-ending lasagna! Yummy! :)
May 1, 2013 4:08 am
Yes, Mother Ann! Willy Wonka, eat your heart out! We thought we had hit the mother load, but alas! a week later the left overs were gone. Though I'm not getting any younger, and certainly am not getting stronger or more energetic, it seems that doing what you enjoy doing lends energy. Food Truck? I wonder...
May 1, 2013 5:17 am
I have my eye on a little 6 table hole in the wall down the road from our place for when I retire but I know that that is all I will do with it. Keep my eye on it and dream....
May 1, 2013 6:24 am
Doc if Madeline thinks of me they way you thought of your grandma, and has good memories like those I will have lived my life well and will not have regrets. Your blog had me smiling all the way through. I agree you are a Chef and what comes out of your kitchen is better then anything restaurant chef can produce. I want a food truck I have my menu and everything just no money for a truck. I wish there was a like button here. There are so many comments on this thread I would be liking.
May 2, 2013 9:45 am
Passion in the kitchen is what makes you a chef. IMO you are a chef.I love using spices & making people happy w/my food. But I don't love cooking~just the eating, so I only consider myself a "good cook".
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Doc Simonson

Home Town
St. Peter, Minnesota, USA

Member Since
Jan. 2009

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Cooking Interests
Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Italian, Southern, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Gourmet

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About Me
I'm old and smelly, kinda like a really good salami with that really nice white mould all over it.
My favorite things to cook
Meat, carbs, meat, carbs, meat, carbs and did I mention meat?
My favorite family cooking traditions
Drop a plate of Pierogis and sausages in front of me and watch my eyes glaze over in pure joy.
My cooking triumphs
Schweinebraten mit Knoedel und Krautsalat. Also Edel Hirsch Gulasch was very nice. I make killer Spaetzle and Knockerl also.
My cooking tragedies
There aren't enough electrons in cyberspace! :) Actually, the tragedies usually involve well intentioned creativity out of control.
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