On Being a Cook… At Home

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Home cooks. Competition cooks. Personal chefs. Professional chefs. Television chefs. Restaurant chefs. Which one are you?

Last week I had the pleasure of spending three days at Maple Leaf Farms in Leesburg, Indiana with people from all over the country who all share one thing in common – our love of food (specifically, our love of duck). Not only did I meet new friends and have a blast (full photo recap of experience coming soon), the entire trip was a culinary learning experience I will never forget. I’m writing everything down while I can still spat out statistics and cooking methods left and write.

Our group was not only geographically diverse, our cooking styles, interests and skill levels were all over the place. This created a fantastic vibe for us to feed off of each other’s different experiences. However, it left me feeling one thing in particular that I just have to write about, and that’s the two word phrase “home cook.”

Prior to this trip, I self-identified with “home cooks,” not because I felt the need to label myself but because I needed a way to describe why I share recipes on this blog. You may have noticed that Solid Gold Eats is all over the place – while I favor savory over sweet, I share recipes that involve everything from five ingredient appetizer dips to cooking methods that take an entire day to complete. That’s me and what I like, a little bit of everything. Yet it all comes down to one thing – cooking at home for myself and my family.

Solid Gold Eats originated out of my need to cook for myself (and my boyfriend) at home. I had moved out of my college dorm and quickly realized that a bowl to microwave Ramen noodles in just would not suffice. From there, I slowly started acquiring the basic tools I NEEDED to create a meal in my kitchen. A simple cookware set, utensils, plates and knives along with a can opener got me by for about a year. Then, when we moved to Indianapolis and I finished college, I had a little more time to think about what I wanted to eat each night for dinner.

That’s when things started exploding for me (no, not literally, just mentally) to where I decided that dinner was not a chore, it was a means of nourishment, and my desire to start cooking new things really took off. Once I felt confident in my cooking methods, I started Solid Gold Eats to share my experiences with others in hopes that I could inspire a few people to enjoy cooking at home.

On Being a Cook...At Home

 

This photo is symbolic of many of my food experiences – Dollar vs Kale

The more time I spend around accomplished home cooks and professional chefs, I realize there is a clear divide between chefs (particularly restaurant chefs) and their feelings about “home cooks” and more specifically “bloggers.” There’s even a divide between home cooks with 30 years of experience and those without. Except for television star, restaurant chef and executive chef Sara Moulton. She doesn’t fit into this argument. As the person who had the MOST experience out of everyone in the room, Sara was more interested in learning from everyone and hearing their ideas than she was about teaching us something she knew. She is such a badass.

Education isn’t everything. I’ve had this same argument with myself about college degrees and the liberal arts fields we get them in.

No, I didn’t go to culinary school.

No, I haven’t worked my way up in a restaurant from washing dishes to being the sous chef.

No, I haven’t spent my life thinking about Michelin stars.

But wait, I didn’t go to school to be a writer, either. Or a WordPress master. Or a photographer. Or a marketing and communications professional. Does that mean I am not qualified to share my recipes online?

Not at all, and I’m sure this logic applies to many of you with your current careers.

I have spent COUNTLESS HOURS cooking for my family. Each night I am thinking of what to eat for dinner, which 9 times out of 10 is cooked at home. In those hours have been many successes and failures, from underestimating prep time to creating literally eating the best short ribs I have ever tasted in my entire life. It took research – cookbooks, websites, videos, television shows – or in some cases sheer courage to get behind the cutting board with a few ingredients and turn them into something edible AND delicious. And for that, I consider myself respectable enough to share my recipes, thoughts and opinions on cooking at home with the world through my website, Solid Gold Eats.

 

Am I asking to be considered a chef? Absolutely not. Do I understand that I do not have the culinary background to advise on every science fact, every knife cut or every cooking method? Of course. But isn’t life a learning experience? Can’t cooking be the same, hence my journey I am sharing with you in which I attempt to learn as much as one can about cooking?

And the real point is this – there are people cooking dinner for themselves and their families every single day, so why not enjoy the experience, learn something and eat great food? You don’t need to be a restaurant chef to achieve this. I don’t aspire to be a restaurant chef with Solid Gold Eats – I aspire to be someone that you can connect with and learn from.

On Being a Cook... At Home

What all of this philosophical debate has left me with is a desire to LEARN. From researching culinary school classes to local food co-op classes (which Indianapolis is full of in both respects), I am asking myself one thing – why? Why should I invest so much time and money in something without a clear idea of where it’s going to take me? I suppose I should have asked myself that question in 2006 when I decided that art history was the degree I wanted to obtain, but in a practical sense, if I am going to embark on this learning journey, I should think about WHY I want to do it. It’s not because I want to be considered a chef or taken seriously with a formal education to back me up. 

One reason is that I want to learn more about food so I can continue sharing things with YOU, my readers! Hence a new series of “Solid Gold Eats Cooking School” will commence in which I’ll share more in depth information about cooking techniques, tools and individual ingredients with multiple resources and information to help you learn as I do. Each time I pick up an ingredient, I think of hundreds of ways it can be used, transformed and devoured. My mind cannot shut it off.

A second reason is because I hope that one day, food will be my full time career. It may take me 10 years to get there, but it is a goal at some point. I’m unsure what the professional will be, either full time recipe development or something else, but the ambition and passion is there. I have no desire to become a restaurant chef, but I have all the respect for those who are.

A third reason, and most likely the only real and meaningful reason, is because I love cooking. I truly do. Trust me, I would not be taking the time and energy to create recipes, photograph them and publish them for you to enjoy if I didn’t love working all the time for free.

So if you love cooking as much as I do, please leave a comment and tell me something you have learned or want to learn from me. How can I help you enjoy cooking at home? What kick in the pants do you need to get going? What frustrations do you have in the kitchen and why? And for goodness sake, call yourself what you want – but know that it is YOU have the power to cook regardless of your education. All you have to do is try.

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  • designhermomma

    I LOVE cooking. I actually just printed out your chipped beef dip recipe to take with me to Belgium, because we will be sans internet for awhile, and I just need this one close. Keep it up, girlfriend!

    • solidgoldeats

      You’ll have to tell me about ALL of the foods you’ll be enjoying as an ex-pat! And thanks for the kind words ;)

  • Jessica Turner Strange

    I really enjoy reading your posts and love to cook, too. I’ve made quite a few of your recipes, too! I think the thing I’ve learned the most is about DUCK (since I just finished reading about your trip). I was surprised at how inexpensive it is to buy. I figured it would be pricey.

    • solidgoldeats

      Thanks Jessica! You’ve always been a huge supporter and for that, I greatly, greatly thank you ;)