Monday, June 14, 2010

Leaving my cooking comfort zone

I just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia, and started thinking about the fact that I have never cooked all the way through a cookbook. Not even close. I pick a few recipes that I like out of it, and I cook those, but I don't think I have ever made a big dent in any of them.

Then there was the problem of choosing what cookbook. Because of my CSA, and my desire to keep the budget low in the summer when we are just on Blake's income, it would be a bad thing to choose to cook through a cookbook for our main meals because there is no way that I could get through a cookbook AND successfully use our CSA box as our primary produce, plus our garden vegetables.

In addition, while I do enjoy cooking, the only time I have extra time for a project like this is summer, and I don't want to be as intense as Julie was in the movie/real life with having to cook something from her cookbook every day.

So I went and looked at my cookbooks (which are sadly sitting in the living room, waiting for a bookshelf because Blake organized the kitchen a little better, which was needed, but part of that was that my cookbooks no longer have a place on a shelf in the cupboard, but are waiting for a real bookshelf near the kitchen). On the top of one of the stacks was this cookbook:


It was a gift from my mother in law, who volunteers at the Nixon library and loves to learn about presidents, and especially their wives. She gave it to me a few years ago, and sadly, I think I have only pulled it out for a few recipes, the "boring ones" like a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Now... sweets are not my forte. I choose tons of recipes for dinners, and I make them just fine, and Blake usually helps, but I don't feel like I would fail without him there... but desserts? I usually hand them off to my husband (sad, I know). In the time since we got married (4 years ago this week) I have never used our kitchenaid mixer without his supervision. AND I can only recall ONCE in that whole time that I made a dessert recipe entirely without his help.

I am afraid of the terms in desserts, like whip, fold, etc. And for some reason, I feel like if I fail at a dessert it is a bigger loss. In addition, I (as stated above) don't make desserts often, so when I do, I want it to be something that I know, for sure, that we will like, or it isn't worth the effort.

All this to say... in spite of my fears, or perhaps because of them, I have made a rather ambitious goal for myself this summer. Twice a week, I will make a cookie recipe from this book. I intend to post about them... like Julie Powell did... and when I chose my recipes, I avoided most of the normal cookies, like chocolate chip, snicker doodles, sugar cookies etc. for two reasons. One is that we actually have cookie dough sitting in the freezer for many of these kinds of cookies. Secondly, I want to try making cookies that I wouldn't just randomly find and decide I want. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they are new and different.

I realize that there are will be many presidents not represented in my summer baking project, but I will be making cookie recipes for 21 different presidents this summer. Some of them are known favorites of them, others are just typical cookies of that era, because information on their favorite cookies couldn't be found. I will be making 23 different recipes (there are two presidents that I am making more than one of their favorite kind of cookies listed in the book) by September. I hope that blogging about it will keep me acccountable.

It is kind of ironic that for how healthy we try to eat in general that my summer goal includes that many cookies, but we actually intend to keep and eat just a few of each batch (depending on how good they turn out :-) ) and the rest will be taken to my husband's work, and to my mom, who will distribute to friends, I am sure.

My first recipe starts tomorrow, and it is from the very first president, George Washington.


  1. I loooove Julie & Julia. It's funny how "cooking" and "baking" can be completely different skill sets. DH always brags about how he doesn't need any recipes to cook, but for that reason, he doesn't bake. I'm still trying to master some dessert recipes too. Those cookies sound like fun!

  2. What a fun project! This didn't start out intentionally, but I think I may end up trying every recipe out of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cooking. Most of the recipes are Indian and so far Andy and I have LOVED all of them. Can't wait to hear about all the cookies!