This piece was written in honor of the launch of the brand new Foodie Gazette. For the first time, my recipes are flying solo, rather than being an adjunct of mepsnbarry.com. That brought to mind the first time I ever flew solo in the kitchen. It was traumatic, to say the least.
What’s the most challenging cooking you’ve ever done? Was it a romantic Valentine’s dinner for someone you had a crush on? The first Christmas dinner you made for your in-laws? A catered brunch for 50 people?
When I was 19, I was a kitchen helper at Sherwood Forest, a summer camp on the Long Beach peninsula in Washington. Between camp sessions, the cook and his assistant, who were saffron-garbed Rajneeshees, went to the Ranch to see the Baghwan and get some free love. I don’t know what held them up (maybe it was the free love), but when it was time to cook dinner, the cooks had not returned.
It was time for trial by fire.
As a kitchen helper, I knew how to chop and stir and wash dishes. I did not know how to cook. But I somehow managed, on the first day of the session, to make enough meatloaf and potatoes to feed 50 cranky children and their (cranky) counselors. In over 20 years since then, I’ve never cooked for a tougher crowd. Whew.
At the time, I was one of those obnoxious teenaged vegetarians, the kind that whines at anyone who eats meat and says “Ewww, gross,” a lot. (I’ve gotten over that now.) So meatloaf in particular was kind of a stretch.
How did I do it? I just followed a basic meatloaf recipe.
Since then, I’ve become a reasonably accomplished cook. As I discovered on that fateful day, anything is possible if you have a recipe.
So, way back then, I started saving recipes. I clipped and sorted and filed them. When I got a computer, I started typing them in. After many years, I published the first 300 on the web, just because I needed a convenient place to store them. Now, there are almost 700.
Then I discovered that I am not alone! Because they’re on the web, other people use my recipes, too. I love knowing what people are searching for: “Robert Redford better than sex cake” or “mashed cauliflower” or “cake mix brownies.”
I love to cook, and I love to take photographs, and I love to write. Here, on the Foodie Gazette, I get to combine my passions (speaking of which, do try the passion fruit mousse sometime).
And if you ever need to make enough meatloaf for 50 cranky, homesick children, please, don’t look here. Until today, I had successfully repressed the memory. So I don’t have that recipe.