For many years, I was the only cook in the house. My husband grew up in a household where he wasn’t even expected to set foot in the kitchen, and so it fell upon me to prepare the meals. I didn’t mind. I’m a creative person who likes to cook, although cleaning up is on my ‘ten worst things to do’ list. So the deal was made. I’d cook and he’d help clean up. I bought a couple pork chops and proceeded to render them inedible. My first attempt at cooking a whole meal was a fiasco.
I learned slowly.
My first success was turkey breast with cream sauce served with peas and carrots. I mastered this, and proceeded to serve it every night for three months. My husband’s uncle, who lived with us at that time because he was consulting surgeon for the Paris Ministry of Health, tells me that he cannot look at turkey without feeling ill now.
My husband, who is funny like that, would still be happily eating turkey with cream sauce – sometimes I wonder about him.
My husband & I moved to Florida around that time. Cooking, for me, was taking the car and going to the Kit’s Kosher Chicken and getting a grilled hen, then stopping at the supermarket for a ready-made salad and mashed potatoes. Or I’d put a hotdog in the microwave.
Then I had the twins, and when they started eating solid food, I became obsessed, no, let’s just say I was determined to give them a wide variety of food so that they wouldn’t become finicky.
As a child, I’d eaten only five things, and that until I was eighteen. I decided my kids would not be like me. So I had to expand my cooking abilities. I asked friends for recipes. I went to my grandparents' house and watched them cook. I bugged my mother for lessons. I’d left home at seventeen, and I’d never been interested in cooking, so my mother tried to teach me a few basics. She gave me a crash course in gravy making, how to boil an egg, and how to roast a whole chicken.
And then we moved to Argentina. We had a cook and a maid living in the house with us. I watched as Suzanne made empanadas and rice and beans. I learned how to barbecue beef. I found out how to make a tomato and onion salad, and I tried to learn how to make the delicious squash and chicken stew the Argentines make – but could never master it. Mostly in Argentina, we ate grilled meat and green salad. I learned how to make a spicy barbecue sauce and how to serve coffee there. After we went to Ureguay, where I learned how to make steamed mussels.
Our next stop was in the Dominican Republic. Again we had a maid and a cook, and again I begged to learn their recipes. So Luz showed me how to make red beans and rice, sliced beef and onion stew, and baked chicken, Dominican style. She also showed me how to make banana fritters, potato pancakes, and a delicious orange and onion salad.
By the time I moved back to France, I’d picked up a fair array of different recipes from all over the world. And to that, I added classical French cooking.
So what’s on the stove now, you ask?
Chicken curry with coconut sauce and cardamom seeds.
1 chicken cut up
4 or 5 onions, chopped
1 apple – chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons curry
2 tablespoons coriander
1 can coconut milk
1 plain yoghurt
2 cups water
1 bouillon cube
Put chicken, onions, garlic, and apple in hot oil and fry until lightly golden. Add juice from one lemon, curry and cardamom, stir well. Add half the coconut milk, the water, and the bouillon cube. Bring to a boil then lower heat. Cook on low/medium heat for an hour. Add yoghurt and rest of coconut milk. Sauce should be thick. Add the coriander. Stir, add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve over rice with lemon wedges.