The Cook next door – meme time again

There’s a new meme doing the rounds in the blogosphere, instigated this time by Nicky at Delicious Days. Nicky says she was inspired by Spiceblog Anthony’s cookbook meme earlier this year to try and prod food bloggers to write something about themselves as opposed to their food, and your truly was tagged by the lovely Sam of Becks & Posh. So here goes…

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

As children, my brother and I were always under my mom’s feet when she was cooking or baking in the kitchen – mostly on the scrounge for a spoon or a mixing bowl to lick!!  I remember spending many happy hours playing with my mom’s biscuit press and cookie cutters…  But I digress.   As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I remember making stuff from the “My Learn to Cook Book” – particularly Krispy Crackolets (cornflake chocolate clusters) and peppermint ice.  But this was always under some supervision.  The first thing that my mom taught me to make and that I consciously remember making on my own was scones.  My mom used to bake scones almost every Sunday morning when I was little, so I guess it wasn’t surprising that I learnt to make them first.  I remember going to play at a friend’s house when I was no more than 10 and at about 4 her mom realised we had no biscuits or anything to have as a mid-afternoon snack.  So I asked if I could bake them scones and she was duly amazed at the quality of the scones that appeared!!  I am still making those scones today.  Thanks Mamma.  The first proper meal I cooked all on my own was when I was a student and I made brisket stewed in beer for a houseful of hungry student friends on holiday – they’d had nothing but toast and take-aways for days and this basic stew was like manna from heaven. 

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

Definitely and without a doubt my mom.  Heaven alone knows how many hours I spent in the kitchen with her.  I’d help with chopping and stirring and preparing and for the rest, I’d just watch.  Surprisingly, though, I never really cooked when I lived at home (Mamma was doing such a good job I figured why mess with a winning formula!!)  So apart from baking scones, early forays into the jaw-breaking world of toffee apples and cooking for friends who I often invited en masse, I didn’t really cook until I got my own place.  I soon discovered that cooking every single night was a very different proposition from cooking the occasional dinner party dish or whipping up a batch of scones!  My mom always used to say that she found the greatest challenge in cooking to be not the conjuring up of a single flashy party dish, but to serve up relatively healthy meals to your family every single night without boring them to tears.  I never understood that till I got my own place and started subjecting my then-boyfriend Nick to my culinary ministrations on a nightly basis!!  I think this goes a long way to explaining the stuff I cook.  I am far less likely to do a fiddly dish with exquisite presentation and far more likely to do a dish that can be cooked from scratch after a day at work…  Although when it comes to inspiration for food presentation, I have to mention my friend Alison (who made an ice bowl studded with green leaves for serving strawberries) and my sister-in-law Paola who always takes so much care to serve her food beautifully.  I live in hope.

Do you have an old photo as evidence of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

I’m sure there are some and I’d love to share, but sadly they are currently in storage back in South Africa…

Mageiricophobia – do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

Bearniase sauce

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?

My Braun wand mixer – it revolutionised my soups (no pun intended).  Back home in storage, my Philipe Starck lemon squeezer.  So what if I only used it like once a month???!  I could look at it every day…

Biggest Let Down – a little mini-mandoline for grating garlic.  A resounding failure.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like – and probably no one else!

A sandwich where one slice is spread with Marmite, the other with apricot jam, and slices of cheddar cheese are placed in between. Mmmm.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

Cheese, cherries, potatoes

The quickies section:

Your favourite ice-cream?

Pain d’epice (gingerbread) from Berthillon in Paris

You will probably never eat?


Your own signature dish?

Chicken breasts stuffed with boursin and basil, wrapped in bacon and baked on a bed of thin potato slices.

A common ingredient you can’t bring yourself to stomach?

Banana.  The smell.  The texture.  The shape.  Everything about it.  Yukky yukky yuk.

The three best things to add to a plain pizza base are: (added by Jeanne of Cooksister)

Gorgonzola, bresaola, pear

Three people….  Hmm, I’m takign wild stabs in the dark here as to who has not already been tagged… OK, how about (and there’s no obligation, folks) Niki from Esurientes, Christina from The Thorngrove Table, and Johanna from The Passionate Cook.

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  1. says

    I love my Braun wand mixer, too! I got it as a wedding shower gift about four years ago, and I’m afraid we’ve killed it. Well, not quite; but it’s certainly down to it’s last…um, spins.
    I spent almost two decades not eating bananas. I got Scarlett fever when I was seven, and had to take banana-flavored medicine. Just smelling bananas made me sick.
    I’m getting over it, though, and Alex inhales them.

  2. says

    Ok – I can understand you not liking the smell, the texture and the taste of a banana, but the shape? Now I quite like the shape – it kind of reminds me of ‘something’…

  3. says

    Oooh, I forgot to mention how much I like my Braun hand mixer, too! You must, absolutely must, post about that signature dish IMMEDIATELY. At the very least, send me the recipe and let everyone else suffer. I’m just saying.

  4. says

    Oh, yes, bananas. Horredous creatures. The smell when someone brings them to the office and drops them in a trash bin is enough to send me reeling.
    I’m starting to develop something of a tolerance for green bananas.

  5. says

    Hi Jeanne – I’m so glad I’m not the only one who bought that garlic thingie. Believe it or not I had the same “biggest letdown” in my Cook Next Door post!!

  6. says

    I totally agree about the banana – I really dont like them. I try them every so often because they are ‘healthy’ and ‘good for you’ but no, each time a big disappoitment/revulsion. I really hate them cooked.
    But a Durian! I tried a couple when in Malaysia or some such country and they were really great. Thing is I cant actually remember what they tasted like apart from the fact I liked it. The smell was potent but not unpleasant. I seem to recall the hotel room overlooked a night time market of the things…

  7. says

    Hi Jeanne,
    thanks for your post, seems like the women in our family all had a great impact on our culinary evolution 😉 And about the Braun mixer – I’m another addict… Although our first get together was… how shall I put it… desastrous… (One shouldn’t lift it while still in motion, do I need to say more?)

  8. says

    I quite like bananas. Aside from the *beautiful, strong, majestic* shape, they taste alright. But I am with Fatmemeh – I prefer them on the green side of ripe. I can eat them only until the first smidgen of black appears. Once they over ripen I can no longer stomach them. At all.
    My father sailed ships to the West Indies to pick up bananas for Geest when I was a youngun’. More often than not we had a whole huge bunch(?) [what do you call the whole thing?] of bananas in our airing cupboard. My sister couldn’t eat a single one. She still can’t to this day. I like them in a bowl with sugar and cream.

  9. says

    Sam: bananas altogether are called a ‘hand’, I believe. I’m super-fussy about bananas, too- too green and they set my teeth on edge, too ripe (it doesn’t take much) and they make me heave. That leaves me with about a 1/2 days window of opportunity. Do I have to tell you that my husband thinks I’m nuts?

  10. says

    Moira – you aren’t nuts and your husband is very lucky. A woman who knows exactly what she wants and he still made the grade.
    I think I know what you mean though – i forgot that too green also sets my teeth on edge. A banana, like a husband, has to be just right. A husband like a banana, now that’s another story…

  11. says

    You know, I can almost understand your marmite/apricot jam/cheddar cheese sandwich…I can imagine the play between salty and sweet and the different textures.
    Almost. But not quite. Ultimately it comes down to ewwwwww!