When I was growing up, no one in my family cooked. Although we weren't particularly well off, my mother and father went so far as to hire a series of women who came in once a week to load our freezer up with casseroles. Later we made a lot of family trips to Subway.
Suffice to say that my brother and I grew to adulthood with only the sketchiest idea of what you were supposed to do in the kitchen. Sure, we experimented. There was my brother's Cheerio scone, formed by crushing Cheerios into a fine powder, adding water, and slapping the resultant lumps onto a baking sheet. The results tasted so revolting we threw the scones out for the birds to eat. The birds knew better.
Or that time in fifth grade, when each kid did a project on one of the fifty States. I assembled an exhaustively researched, exhaustingly long-winded report on the great state of Vermont (confessions of an Elementary School swot) but was paralyzed by the assignment to prepare a representative dish from my state. Finally I put some apples in a saucepan, added some Coolwhip (symbolizing Vermont's dairy industry, as I recall), drizzled some Log Cabin syrup on top, and shoved the whole thing into Dixie cups.
I finally learned to cook in college, from a roommate descended from a long line of Iowa farmwives. (My brother was not so lucky: he has grown into a tall, gaunt young man who never turns down free food.) I can cook my share of workday meals, make biscuits, even make pie from scratch. Still, I've never quite lost my, er, spirit of adventure, and so, from time to time, I'll eat something like this:
This was tonight's dinner. I started with the basic pancake recipe in the 1997 Joy of Cooking, which I find produces thin, lumpy pancakes with a crave-worthy salty tang. (A little more mixing smooths out the lumps, but what's the point if you like lumpy pancakes? Also, Anne's #1 cooking tip: if a recipe calls for salt, you should always add more.) To the basic batter, I added powdered cardamom, which made for strange little (lumpy) aromatic pancakes. Hmm.
Next I spread the pancakes with something called fromage blanc, which is a soft, tangy white farmer's cheese. Over each pancake I then poured a spoonful of locally-made maple syrup, the runny kind that tastes like nothing but itself.
It was actually kind of yummy. I'm going to round out the meal with some frozen peas and maybe a little beer. My mother would be proud.