LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to teach my stepdaughter Gabrielle how to cook. Happily, she’s on board with the plan, and yesterday we found ourselves in the kitchen making a roast chicken. Granted, she looked at me a little warily when I told her she would actually have to touch the chicken to stuff it — “Touching raw meat is what separates the men from the boys,” I informed her — but with just a slight wriggling of her nose, she held onto the drumsticks while I shoved onion, garlic, lemons and thyme into the cavity.
These lessons come at a great time as late January and especially February are the months I’m least inspired to cook. For some reason, I blank out at the grocery store and nothing sounds that delicious in my cookbooks this time of year. Everything has the feeling of “been there, done that,” and I flip away, talking myself out of almost every recipe because it doesn’t seem low-fat enough to get rid of the extra holiday poundage.
So this year, we’re relying on the “Teens Cook” cookbook she got for Christmas and making our way through its pages. So far, that has involved a very Ketchupy recipe for Sloppy Joes, salmon and vegetables en papillote, and tonight we’ll make chicken potpies. The dazzling puffed pastry lying over the ramekins is what sold her on that one, and I can’t say I blame her. Who can resist golden dough, after all?
Watching her cook has made me remember the days when I was first learning. It’s amazing how precise you are when you’re just starting and how it’s only time and experience that make you feel like you have permission to deviate. For example, one recipe she was working on called for 8 green beans. I think we can all agree it’s a little ridiculous to designate a specific number, but when I suggested that she perhaps use all 15 we had bought in order to make sure they didn’t go to waste, she was having none of it.