Thursday, January 13, 2011

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery

There are two people in Hubby's and my life that were the key to starting this little baking/cooking phenomenon.  Hub's cousin (we will call him Cuz) and Cuz's wife S.  Cuz and S got married a little over two years ago but have been together long before Hubby and I met.  Every holiday season Cuz and S would bring some culinary sensation to our celebrations, whether it be a baked good like delish pumpkin bread or something they cooked like smoked salmon (smoked salmon that was literally so good you thought your head would explode from the amazingness).  I always thought to myself, hum, wouldn't it be nice if I could do something like that... you know, be able to offer some sort of deliciousness to our celebrations. 

Now there is something you have to know before moving forward... I come from a mostly no cooking household.  As in, my mom baked once a year... and it was from a box (as the audience gasps with horror).  And she cooked the same 7 or so meals on rotation and 90% of each meal was either from a can, pre-made, or frozen.  My dad also didn't do much cooking.  He could do one meal, and that was breakfast.  When I was around 9 years old my sister had pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  My mom stayed with my sister in the hospital while I stayed at home with my dad, and we would visit the hospital once a day for the four days she was there.  I have never become so tired of breakfast food in my life.  We had breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, and breakfast for dinner every single day... or at least that's how I remember it.  Scrambled eggs or an omelet, orange juice, toast, bananas, cereal on repeat!  So we know for sure this hobby of mine did NOT come from my parents.  Sorry mom and dad. 

Back to the story, about two years ago I attended a work event that featured cookbook author, Anne Byrn.  Because I worked at the event I received two of her cookbooks, Cake Mix Doctor Returns and What Can I Bring.  This was just the fire under my bum I needed to start trying some recipes!  So for Christmas 2009, I decided to make the Cake Mix Doctor Returns Apple Cider Bundt Cake with a lemon and apple cider glaze.  At the time I didn't really own any baking supplies, so I went to the store and bought myself a nice Anolon bundt pan, some mixing bowls, and rummaged through my cabinets to find a hand mixer (that, of course, had never been used) that my mom bought me when I moved into my first apartment after college.  I also realized I didn't have a stand or a carrier of any sort so I bought a disposable pizza pan at the grocery store and decided I would tote it to Christmas on the pizza pan wrapped in cling wrap.  I had to go to Hubby's apartment (we were engaged at the time) to bake the cake because my crapo basement apartment didn't even have an oven!  Making the cake was surprisingly simple and quite relaxing... the only hard part was greasing and flouring the pan (I obviously had not found out about the genius of Bakers Joy yet!).  So I brought the cake to Hub's family Christmas and everyone LOVED it!  So much so that Cuz now requests it!

Proof - Apple Cider Bundt Cake, Christmas 2009

So after this first baking experience (sure, I had baked things before but all those things were straight from a box with no extra ingredients or it was break and bake cookies... nothing fancy) I decided to add some more baking things to our wedding registry.  Flash forward to late June/early July 2010, we were married in early June and we got several of our baking things off of our registry.   I have now baked a few things here and there for birthdays or special occasions like Hubby graduating from grad school.  But I still would not say, by any means, that I am a regular baker or that it is a common hobby of mine, it was still more of an aspiration.  We had decided not to add a stand mixer to the registry because Hubs and I both felt like there were many other things we needed more and we didn't want anyone to feel pressured to spend that much on a wedding gift.  Although I will say, I wanted one SO BAD!  So one Sunday Cuz called Hubs and left a voicemail saying they had made a meal from the Julia Childs cookbook, Beef Bourguignon to be exact, and they wanted us to come over for dinner.  We didn't get the voicemail until much later in the day but decided to call back anyways.  They said to come on over, so we did... and thank God for that! 

We get to their house and, as always, have a great time talking and drinking and eating a Delicious meal.  Looking back this one meal single handedly changed the course of cooking and baking in our home.
The first key part is that Cuz had cooked the meal, not S.  When Hubs found out about that, it seemed to pique his interest.  He started asking Cuz all kinds of questions about cookbooks and different genres of food.  Up until that point, Hubs had not really ever cooked much.  He was the grill master and that was about it.  I found it slightly odd that he was interested in Cuz's cooking.  However, I know Hubby and if he gets interested in something he commits.  Plus he is one of those people who is good at everything he does... typical, haha!

As for me, I had noticed a large box in the corner of the dining room but didn't think much of it.  At the end of the meal both Cuz and S said they had something for me us.  They grabbed the large box and set it right in front of us.  Hubby looked at me and said, "Go ahead and open it."  So I set it on the floor and started to open it.  I got through the tape and some foam peanuts and low and behold the holy grail of wedding registries lie within the box... A KITCHEN AID STAND MIXER!!!!  Cue angels singing.  I about fell over I was so excited.  The crazy thing is, I thought I hadn't told anyone how much I wanted one of these.  I figured in a few years when we were more established, Hubs and I could buy one for ourselves.  But then I remembered, at the shower in Hubby's hometown, someone asked me if I registered for one.  I said no, but that I wanted one so bad and we just couldn't justify registering for it when we needed so many other things like dishes and flatware and drink ware.  S happened to be sitting very close to me during this conversation and tucked that little bit of info away.  After I opened it, she told me that she and Cuz had been keeping their eye on one for a while waiting for it to go on sale, and when they saw it for a good price they grabbed it up!  I was so incredibly flattered that I didn't know what to say.  It was not only a very generous gift, but so thoughtful of them. 

Me after bringing home the holy grail of wedding registries

But this story gets even better.  When we got home that night, Hubs said he wanted to go buy the Julia Childs cookbook and try some of the recipes.  I was SO surprised by this, but readily encouraged it... I mean duh, husband cooking, yes please!  So a few days later he and I made our way to the local Barnes and Noble and bought volume 1 (I think) of the set.  I think he was afraid that cooking wasn't a masculine thing, but once he saw Cuz, who is masculine and definitely a guys guy, Hubs finally felt like it was OK if he wanted to try cooking. 

Ever since that night the Hubs has been cooking up a storm (and boy is his cooking good) and I have been baking like nobodies business!

Honorable mention in the progression of my baking and Hubs cooking:  Definitely Hubby's mom, my MIL.  She is very encouraging of me and anytime I have a question I call her.  She has been cooking and baking for most of her life.  Actually I think the Hubs must have gotten his cooking skills from her.
It also doesn't hurt that many of my friends like cooking and/or baking too.  

So that is the road I took to becoming a baker.  Who changed the course of your life hobbies for the better?

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