A Hundred Folds

Legend has it that the hundred folds in a chef’s toque represent the chef having mastered a hundred ways to cook an egg.  True or not, the meaning behind this is simply that in order to be considered a master and have the honor of wearing the toque, one must demonstrate a wide array of technique, skill, and creativity; if you can prepare an egg a hundred ways, you can cook anything.

Most people are not master chefs, nor do they desire to be; they  just want to be able to make good food for themselves and their families and friends.  I began to learn how to cook simply by watching, by being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother.  When they would bake bread, or make a pie, or butcher a chicken, I was there, watching.  I learned the smells and the words and saw them using the tools.  They would give me a bit of dough to knead, a small pie tin to make my own pie; at first I mimicked their work, and eventually, came to understand it.  I learned where food came from by helping in the garden, tilling the soil and planting the seeds and learning their names and watching them grow into vegetables and herbs.  I sat at the table picking feathers out of chickens that had been alive just minutes ago and helped my father skin rabbits and deer and watched my mother turn those things into meals that were served at our table.  Learning those things was a process, a collection of experiences that took years, decades, and I’m still learning; it is a lifelong endeavor, this love of food and its history and diversity and the joy I find in sharing it with others.

Many people did not have these experiences and did not have the benefit of living with and watching not master chefs, but masters of cookery.  Perhaps you are one of these people, and you now find yourself in the  position of lacking the basic skills and knowledge needed to prepare and enjoy good food.  It is my sincere hope that I can help you fill this gap, and give you the gift of some small part of my experience.  It is hard, starting from scratch as an adult. Being in the kitchen can be like being dropped in a foreign land where you don’t know the language and nothing is familiar and you feel lost.  I would like to help you feel more familiar and comfortable, to learn the language and find the tools to help you maneuver in this strange, new land.

Cooking food and sharing it with the people I love has always been one of my greatest joys.  One thing you should know right away is that, contrary to what you will see on the high-pressure (but enjoyable!) cooking competitions on TV, there is no way to do it “wrong.”  You are not in competition with anyone.  I value the experiences I have had learning and trying to perfect family recipes and creating my own.  Sometimes you fumble.  Sometimes that fumble ends up being delicious, anyway!

Cooking is the one thing in my life about which I am completely confident, the one thing that lets me express my inner self and creativity without second-guessing or worry or stress.  That confidence comes from having made many, many mistakes, learning from them, and knowing that there will likely be many more.  I welcome you in your new adventure, I admire your desire to learn, and I hope that I can help you to become the best cook that you can be.


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