Cooking for a grade — and a bit more

From outright useless to quite prepared, I learned the embrace the kitchen.

Cooking for a grade — and a bit more

From outright useless to quite prepared, I learned the embrace the kitchen.

I am no chef.

I have no proficiencies to boast of in the culinary arts. In fact, I’d say I’m outright useless in the kitchen. There’s no use in blaming my mother for never equipping me with a sense of knowledge or comfort in the kitchen — no, I accept full responsibility for never having learned how to properly maneuver as a cook. Every time my mother tried to teach me anything in the kitchen, I quickly became frustrated and nervous, and I promptly gave up.

Every time.

I suppose in addition to an (ideally) increased level of maturity as a college senior, having to finally learn cooking skills – gourmet, no less – in a classroom setting made cooking a bit more accessible and a little less foreign. Did I mention that Dr. Anne VanBeber’s Gourmet Foods class is also a graded course? There’s nothing like a little GPA motivation to finally force me to pay attention.

A few of my friends had taken Dr. VanBeber’s Gourmet Foods course, and had recommended that I take the class. “Dr. VanBeber is so much fun,” they told me. “Plus, you get to eat what you’ve cooked after each lab!”

Indeed, I found myself looking forward to lab every week, where we did our best to prepare selected recipes. After a couple of hours of preparing, chopping, simmering, mixing, and braising, the entire class enjoyed a sit-down meal of the day’s fares. To my surprise and subsequent delight, practically every meal offered a smorgasbord of delicious new flavors.

Initially, cooking with my three kitchen-mates terrified me. I convinced myself that in order to avoid an explosion or some other disaster, I should solely observe and stick to what I know: washing and putting dishes away. They didn’t argue.

After six or seven labs, though, I felt comfortable enough to contribute to a dry-heat cooking lab. I jumped in and sauteed a chicken breast — a huge step for me. My kitchen-mates even encouraged me to brown the pan, and I chose to make an orange rosemary sauce. The dish was positively delicious. I had created something not only edible, but also wonderful, and my kitchen-mates agreed.

After the initial plunge, I began to volunteer for various tasks in the kitchen — besides washing dishes – and learned perhaps the most valuable piece of knowledge I needed to know: the kitchen is not such a scary place.

There are only 24 spots in Dr. VanBeber’s Gourmet Foods course, and seniors should sign up, if for no other reason than the recipe book students get to take home. Talk about real world preparation. I may be no chef, but I now consider myself quite prepared.

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