With most things in life, I prefer the calm, safe (boring) approach. I am not a thrill-seeker. I do not endeavor to live on the wild side. Far from it. I drive within the speed limit; I wear sensible shoes; I brush after meals; I have first aid kits in each of the family vehicles. None of my hobbies involves parachutes, bungee cords, zip lines or poisonous snakes.
I don’t need extreme measures to get my adrenaline pumping. Roller coaster? Hang glider? Nah, I find my excitement a little closer to home.
By most accounts, I am as bland as milk toast - except when I enter the kitchen. There, I become a daredevil - a spice wielding, tongs toting, garlic pressing, potato mashing, pepper milling, cheese grating, lemon zesting, pan brandishing Ninja warrior of the room with the stew. (Whew!)
And I’m just getting started. Can someone hand me a spatula?
My kitchen is my playground. I swing with the sauces and slide with the spices and go ’round and ’round with a whisk, whipping up something fresh and unique and dare I say daring. My kitchen is a space where rules are like egg shells and made to be broken - or better yet shattered. Give me some eggs, flour, milk, cheese and herbs, let me toss ‘em together and we’ll see what we get. Soufflé!
There’s one slight but pesky problem with my inspired and invigorating cooking behaviors: other people (aka my family). Not everyone is a culinary risk taker. Many people prefer a more calm, safe (boring) approach to food. They favor familiar flavors and find it difficult to embrace a combination of cayenne with chocolate for a mole sauce, a last minute decision to add dried cranberries to the apple cobbler or an inspired substitution of quinoa for rice in Friday night’s stir fry.
Other people prefer predictability in the kitchen. They expect their split pea soup to taste like split pea soup and white rice to be white. This consistency in cooking requires something outside the reaches, desires or imagination of my kitchen skills: the ability to follow a recipe.
I’ve tried following recipes. And failed. Recipes restrict my culinary creativity. They require one’s pantry to be stocked with certain ingredients while limiting use of food items not on the official list. That’s too many rules for me.
In addition, most of the recipes I’ve seen involve measuring and measuring involves numbers. I’ve always preferred letters over numbers, except in algebra, but that’s a story of PTSD I’ve buried deep within my psyche. I think it’s best not to resuscitate those demons here.
Let’s just say I lack an aptitude for measuring and leave it at that.
I am a kitchen daredevil. There, I said it out loud. It feels good to come clean and admit I’ve been feeding my kids experimental concoctions since the 1990s. And, despite their complaints about ingredients, flavors, spices and texture (and there have been more than a few during any given month-week-day-meal) my offspring have managed to survive. I like to believe they’re better for it. Regular, nice moms give their kids macaroni and cheese. I’ve given mine experience, variety, adventure and mystery.
That, and quinoa.
Cloquet writer Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication.” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.