If you’re reading this blog, which by default I can assume you are (see what I did there), I’m sure the first and most glaring question you are asking yourself is, “Why on earth is Shannon Haydel writing a cooking blog?” I completely understand the confusion, as it is no well-kept secret that I am not the world’s best chef. I’ve found ways to screw up grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, spaghetti noodles, and hot chocolate. As recently as five year ago, I did not know what a roux was, not to mention a remoulade or a bouillabaisse (and that last one I’m still not sure of). I often announce that although I cannot cook, I can bake, but my expertise lies almost exclusively in cookies and brownies. I guess my answer to your most reasonable question is that, at its most basic, this blog is not a “cooking blog.” It will outline my cooking adventures in the next year, but cooking is not the soul (of the blog; I have many relatives and friends that would argue that cooking IS the soul). I have a few talented friends that maintain deliciously helpful and exciting food blogs, a few of which you can view here:
But again, this blog is not one of those blogs. Because this is written by me (and largely for me, which I’ll detail shortly) and I am not one for brevity, allow me to meander my way through a lengthy explanation of what, if anything, this blog is. I’ve broken it into three main points:
1. My mom always cooked.
I am in a family of six. My parents had my older sister immediately after getting married (my mom was 18 and my dad was 20), and had me three years later. For the first six or seven years of my life, my family was on the lower end of the income scale and my parents had to make very calculated decisions with their money. This was not more apparent to me as a kid than when we went grocery shopping. Brand cereal was never purchased; the kind at the bottom of the rack in big bags would do just fine. The fancy vegetables were skipped over for whatever was cheapest or on sale that week. My mom didn’t have the luxury of cooking elaborate recipes either – not only did we not have the money for saffron or sea bass, the kids didn’t exactly have the most refined of palates and demanded the simple foods. Mac and cheese was cheap; chicken was cheap. My mother mastered a couple dozen kid-friendly recipes and stuck to those for most of my upbringing. It worked for all of the kids and it worked for her, and when we got older, moved to Texas and started living the upper middle class life, the food stayed the same. Because my mom didn’t have a job at the time, she always had dinner ready to go whenever my dad would come home from work and in between all of the soccer/lacrosse/cross country/band practices in which the kids were currently entrenched. She never asked us to help her cook; she only asked that we help set the table and clean the dishes. If we wanted to help, she let us, but it wasn’t required, even on holidays. Unless it was going on the grill (in which case my dad took over), my mom always handled the food in the house.
2. College taught me advertising, not cooking.
Throughout college, I was drawn to roommates who liked to cook. Veronica (Skerhut) Wolfe, Erin Kelly, and my now husband…all of them enjoyed, to some degree, being in the kitchen. Even Mike’s roommate for part of college would cook huge meals for everyone just to try out a new recipe or kitchen tool. I never had to learn the basics because people around me always took care of it. If I was alone and got hungry, I’d pop into Central Market, Boston Market, or Texadelphia. Cooking would take too much time, yielded too much food, and was too boring. No thank you.
3. The husband.
This is an interesting point because he was both the reason I continued being kitchen-ignorant and the reason why I decided to learn to cook, and to start the blog (ah, finally, she starts making her point!). My husband (who will be referred to as Mike from here on out) is from New Orleans and has a serious passion for cooking. In the beginning I always let him prepare the food, even if it was just a tuna sandwich, because he had his own methods and it always turned out better than if I tried. Also, he has an infuriating habit of commenting on my cooking while I’m doing it, which turns a girl off. When I first met his mom, she joked that you don’t want to be cooking in the kitchen with a Haydel man unless you plan to get upset, and she was right. If I am making something – a pot of pasta, let’s say – Mike will casually stroll by, glance in the pot of boiling water, and suggest that I may want to put a bit more salt in there. (How would he know that anyway, especially without tasting it!!?!?!). Those Haydel men are never satisfied with their own dishes, and are more than happy to offer feedback on exactly how you could improve your own – mostly during the cooking process itself. Therefore, I stayed away.
However, over time I felt that I needed to pull my weight in the kitchen, so I started making the smaller meals or sticking to basic recipes. When asked (we still have a strict rule in the kitchen that we can’t look over each other’s shoulders without express permission), Mike would provide constructive criticism, and I slowly started to develop my skills in the kitchen. I learned that I liked it when I spent a few hours preparing a dish and it tasted great. I started thinking about my reasons why I didn’t cook, and they started to seem like excuses. Yes, Mike is better at cooking than me, but that’s no reason to throw in the towel before even trying.
Mike and I got married in October of 2009, and have started talking about our timeline for children. That’s when it hit me – I don’t want to be a wife and a mom that doesn’t know how to cook. My mom always provided for our family and out of sheer stubbornness I was quickly barreling down the opposite track. Thus (finally…FINALLY, Shannon), I decided to REALLY learn how to cook, and write about it. But then – the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cooking isn’t the end-all be-all of Things I Never Learned How To Do Because I Didn’t Need To. My mother and grandmother always sewed; if I needed anything I asked them. My dad and all of my siblings are all computer savvy; if my computer freezes I call my brother.
Is my marriage amazing? You betcha (with a Sarah Palin accent). Am I happy with my career path? Absolutely. Do I travel to the places I want to go? Slowly but surely. Do I achieve the goals I set for myself? Yes! So here’s my new goal: take a year, learn a skill that will stick with me forever. Chronicle it in this blog, and have both a motivator and something to look back to when the year is over.
So, now you can see why this blog isn’t a cooking blog. It will start that way, but in 2011 I’ll move on to something else I want to learn. I hope that you’ll stick with me, but if not, I understand. After all, not everyone cares about bouillabaisse.