About the Author
I wish I had a book like this when I left home. I was able to fry an egg and cook toast, grill a chop and boil some vegies until they lost all colour. But that’s pretty much about it. Coming from a typical middle class family in the suburbs of Brisbane, Dad went to work and Mum did all the cooking. Mum was pretty handy in the kitchen and did a great job keeping up enough food for our family of six including four ravenous boys. Dad did venture into the kitchen to carve roasts, stir the gravy and of course he would be in charge of the BBQ. If he did have to prepare something for us kids it usually meant opening something from the freezer and chucking it in the oven on high with no regard to the instructions. Maybe it’s a bloke thing but reading the instructions seemed to be an indication of weakness. He would only turn down the oven once the smell of smoke started to fill the kitchen.
I never showed much interest in learning to cook and I moved out at 19. A little dive of a house in inner city Brisbane was my new home with one of my brothers, Chuck, and a mate of his, Garry. They were a bit like the odd couple. My brother had the messiest room I have ever seen and his mate Garry was a bit of a neat freak. Every Sunday it was tradition to go to the Breakfast Creek Hotel for the 4-6pm session. This was not only to feast on the best steaks in Brisbane but also to savour a couple of beers off the wood in the private bar. Garry could put away a huge rump, potato and that funny coleslaw stuff they used to serve it with and then back up with ten pots in under two hours. He was a sight to behold after that lot I can tell you.
Apart for the Sunday steak, we did not really eat very well in those early days. The take away food got a work out for a while but it was a bit expensive in those days and before long I was yearning for a nice home cooked meal.
So I ventured out to the supermarket. I was completely unprepared. I had no meals planned, no list and no idea what I was going to buy. I meandered up and down the aisles occasionally dropping an item or two into the trolley. Before long I had half a trolley full of junk food like chips, peanuts, soft drink, chocolate, Coco Pops, ice cream, topping, biscuits, cheese, custard, tomato sauce, canned fruit and frozen pies. There were some cleaning products, a magazine, a toilet brush, some funky wine glasses and a packet of coloured balloons (the balloons were on special)
A quick estimation of the cost revealed I had already overspent my budget and I still had no real food. So I returned lot and started again, the whole time looking for the best value for money. I did manage to get my fresh food and staples and presented at the checkout and was shocked at the total. I didn’t have near enough money and stared at the checkout chick like she was a thief. I ended up paying for my first grocery shop with a credit card. This is probably normal these days but at the time it was considered reckless behaviour. I wanted to go back to Mum’s.
Needless to say I was very protective of my booty when I got home. I had never shared a house before and was concerned that my hard earned cash was going to go down the gullets and my hungry-gutted house mates. It took a while but eventually got it together and worked out some sort of system that kind of worked.
My first visit back home for a home cooked meal was a memorable one. After a month of eating crap food I’d made myself, I needed a real meal. It was a Saturday night and I had nothing on so I invited myself over to my parents place. When I got there the air was full of that unmistakable aroma. A roast! Awesome! Better still it was roast lamb. I couldn’t believe my luck.
I raided Dad’s fridge for a cold beer as soon as I got in the door, and after a pre dinner chat the roast lamb emerged. Mum does her roast potatoes in a wok and they are legendary. Dad was carving so I began helping out with the gravy. Circumstances meant I was now interested in learning how to cook, so I started to ask Mum a few questions like, how long to cook a roast lamb for, and how to make the gravy so delicious. My education in cooking had begun.
When dinner hit the table I wolfed it down like a starving dog. I got straight up for seconds and gorged myself until I was almost sick. I would have licked the plate if it weren’t for the fear of the inevitable back hander. Fantastic meal! I caught a few sideways smirks from my Mum as she observed the spectacle of my feverous feasting. “Good to have you for dinner, son” I heard as I wiped the last remnants of gravy from my face.
I decided then and there that I wanted to be able to cook, proper, wholesome home cooked food for myself. We talked more about cooking and I managed to con some tools to take with me. I left there that night with a couple of pots and pans, a recipe book and an assortment of utensils. I had no idea what some of it was for, or how to use them, but not wanting to sound stupid, I just packed them up with thanks.
Later that week, I opened the recipe book to get some inspiration. I was excited to begin my education in cooking. Reading through the recipes I got increasingly confused. There were all sorts of technical terms and ingredients that I had never heard of. What does sauté mean, and how in the hell do you fold batter? It’s a bloody liquid! The recipes were far too advanced for me and I did not have anywhere near the skills for them. Furthermore they were all weird foods that required cooking equipment that was beyond even my new collection of mysterious tools
So it was back to well-done meat and three overcooked veg for me .
Over the next few years I taught myself to cook through trial and error and picking up a few tips and tricks along the way. If I had this book back then it would have taken me much less time and there would have been many less culinary disasters.
This is why I have written this book. To make it easier for the average bloke to get going in the kitchen.