The chief cook and bottle washer at my house had an accident this spring, and they were off their feet for eight weeks. That's means I got a crash course in cooking. And I found out that I enjoyed it. My first triumph was a chicken dish, from a recipe provided by a Mayonnaise company. Don't judge.
Because I was learning at the height of garden season, all sorts of fresh produce was available for experimenting. Oven-roasted eggplants, Feta cheese and basil pesto, cornmeal crusted vegetable pizza, stuffed summer squash, various pasta salads- we tried it all.
And I found that even amid the hurry of doctor's appointments and the general worry of the situation, cooking calmed me down. I liked working with the food. I enjoyed (most of the time) eating what I made. I wanted to keep it up once it was no longer my main responsibility.
So, now I read cookbooks for fun. And "The Homemade Kitchen" is my latest choice. The author, Alana Chernila, seems like a really cool lady, and we both live in New England, so we share the same basic growing seasons and access to local ingredients.
As you read this book, you may feel like Alana is a really good cook who wants to talk about her garden and hear about your latest kitchen adventure. I appreciate that. Some cookbooks leave you feeling like you're in the presence of a master chef, somebody very skilled and very intimidating.
As I read her book, I didn't feel like Alana knows any secret tricks. I felt like she knows her kitchen. She knows her ingredients. She knows her family and what they want to eat. She knows her own hands and her own mind. She's got her preferred methods, and she hopes that you practice and find your own.
That, I can do.
"The Homemade Kitchen" really is quite affirming. Alana's celebration of her kitchen can help ground you as you consider how to work in yours, and her level-headed assessment of current eating trends can help you articulate your own philosophy of food.
As for the recipes... they're great inspirations and jumping-off points. Did you know that your own jam can really be easy to make, and you only have to make one jar at a time if that's all you need? Did you know you can make a jar of pickled vegetables with a simple brine and some spices? Have you ever craved warm cinnamon bread, or a steak-cucumber-mint salad? Now you will, once you read her recipes.
I think I want to order her first book, "The Homemade Pantry" to go with my copy of "The Homemade Kitchen." I think we need more food-people saying "You can do this, and here's a way to get started." It's a message that encourages us to heat up the oven, plant a garden, buy some fresh ingredients, sort through our pantry, and lay the plates out on the table.
I thank BloggingforBooks for providing me with a review copy, in exchange for my opinion. Now, I've gotta go put my fresh cooked tomato sauce in a jar, and I might grab a cranberrry-walnut-cinnamon roll while I'm up. Cooking at home- who would have thought it could be so much fun?