Thirty Thoughts on Turning 30: #18 How I Learned to Cook

They say that the recipe for Sprite is lemon and lime, but I tried to make it at home, and there’s more to it than that.

“You want some more homemade Sprite?”

“Not until you figure out what the f**k else is in it!”

-Mitch Hedberg

I learned to cook from the cooking channel.

Sure, I received some basic training from my Momma and Grandma such as how to cream butter and sugar together and how to boil an egg, but the majority of my lessons came from The Barefoot Contessa and Sara Moulton.

Thankfully, I have earned the reputation of being a good cook, and when I say “earned,” I mean EARNED!

Because learning to cook good has come as a result of making some really shitty-tasting food.

But I guess that is the beauty of mistakes: they teach you what you do NOT want to have happen again.

And yet…if I cook something absolutely perfect, I can NEVER seem to make THAT happen again.

What the hell?

Cooking can be so ironic in that even though I can make my marinara not come out so salty the next time I prepare it, I cannot seem to make my peach cobbler come out as beautifully as it did that one time back in 2006!

As the Dalai Lama once said, “Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.”  (I didn’t think the man cooked at all, but I do love his philosophy on cooking.)

One time, after complaining to a friend about the inconsistencies among my cobblers, she told me that cooking was an art, not a science.

Another time, a different friend told me that cooking was a science, not an art.

So…who was right?

I say both because you need both to make the perfect batch of biscuits!

With that said, I have decided to share with you both the best and worst dishes I have made in my life thus far…..

(Why not start off with the GOOD first, shall we?)


1. The peach cobbler that I made back in 2006. 

The crust looked exactly like it should have: poufy.  The crusted tasted exactly as it should have: light and buttery.  Success!!

2. The peach pie that I made back in July 2007.  (What can I say?  I LOVE peach desserts!)

First, I cooked the peaches in a dreamy syrup of butter, brandy and peach nectar.  Then I poured the peaches into a homemade pie shell and topped the creation with a coconut-almond crumble topping.

Then I ate it.

Then I ate more of it.

Then I finished it.

3. The Mustard-Crusted Roast Chicken that I made back in July 2007.  (What can I say?  Summer 2007 was a good time for me!)

The meat was juicy and flavorful.  The crust was tangy and aromatic.  The cook was very happy.

4. The Penne Marinara with Turkey Meatballs that I made this past May.

Presenting loved ones with a massive dish of penne pasta piled high with big, juicy meatballs drenched in savory marinara sauce always produces big smiles and happy tummies.

5. The Red Curry with Bamboo Shoots that I make every time.

I credit the beauty of Thai food and a good recipe with why this dish turns out so perfectly every time I make it.


1. My first attempt at marinara sauce back in 1995.

What can I say?  The stuff tasted like shit.  Basically, I mixed a can of tomato sauce, a can of water, a whole bunch of oregano and even more salt together and heated it to a boil.

Then I slowly ate it over a bed of half-cooked spaghetti noodles.

2. My second attempt at marinara sauce back in 2000.

As a poor college student, I thought I could beat the system by purchasing a 60-cent can of spinach and a 30-cent can of tomato sauce.  This, too, I brought to a boil along with some garlic salt and Italian seasoning.

I spit the first bite out, because I didn’t want such torridness entering my stomach.

Then I tossed the whole thing in the garbage.

I ate raisins and peanut butter for dinner that night.

3. That batch of Snicker Doodles I baked in 1997.

Somehow I misread the recipe and added 1 TABLESPOON of cream of tartar instead of 1 teaspoon.

Cookies that usually spread to the width of a coaster remained as tight as a golf-ball.

You should have seen my step-dad’s face pucker when he took a bite of one.

4. My first attempt at Penne Marinara with Turkey Meatballs back in 2005.

I was tired.

I was stressed.

The oil on the stove started smoking.

I somehow dropped a raw meatball behind the fridge.

After several strained attempts to remove the meatball from its precarious spot, I only succeeded in squishing the meatball further into the corner.

I plopped down on the kitchen floor and began to sob hysterically.

Dave heard me say ^#%$&^#%$^&#%$#$%^$@%#$^#^$%#^#&%^$&#% for the first time.

Dave dragged me outside and away from the kitchen.

Dave held me while I cried.

Our dinner guests, who were due in 10 minutes, wound up cancelling anyway.

5. The Crock-Pot Lasagna I made about 5 weeks ago.

What inspires a grown woman to dump an undrained tub of cottage cheese along with extra-runny marinara sauce into a slow-cooker and expect an edible meal is beyond me!

I guess I thought the extra addition of mozzarella would soak up all the excess liquid.

The dish tasted…okay.

The dish looked…like dog vomit.

Therefore, it did not make Recipe of the Week.


Art, science, cooking channels, mommas, grandmas and reckless abandon.

These were the things that taught me how to cook.


I forgot to add “A handful of decent attempts at brown gravy” to my Victories list, and “A really big handful of really shitty attempts at brown gravy” to my Mistakes list.


Who hasn’t ever made a batch of really shitty brown gravy?


Why yes, as a matter of fact I HAVE had many struggles cooking marinara sauce!


5 thoughts on “Thirty Thoughts on Turning 30: #18 How I Learned to Cook

  1. Gravy as in brown or country? Or gravy as in marinara? I’m pretty good at making the marinara buttery, I have had a salty batch every now and then. Now if it the brown and country gravy you’re wondering about…they scare me! Lol! My country gravy was fine and I’ve never really attempted a homemade brown gravy. I’m not a big gravy fan…but for the first time ever, last Thanksgiving I had gravy with my meal and it was delicious. Probably because my mother in-law followed a recipe to the T and I HATE following recipes…well more like I hate having to pay attention and actually read and pay attention. Blah! This year, I will be making the gravy and im excited about it!

    • Haha! I meant brown gravy. I tend to refrigerate my flour but when you whisk cold flour into warm broth it clumps like nobody’s business! Hmm….maybe I should post a gravy tutorial…
      Are you ready for the big 3-0 this Saturday??

  2. Cooking is an art – baking is a science. Thats the way it goes. You can take liberties when you cook but when a baked good is involved it is usually reliant on some scientific formula to rise, spread, puff, crisp, or flake.

    That being said, I make chili all the time but I have never used the same recipe twice! I have a standard list of about 30 things I will put in my chicli and I toss in whatever I have at the time from that list. One thing I NEVER use is chili powder. It is made by satan!!

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