Question of the day.

Do you like to cook and/or bake?

My answer:

I thought I’d do a bit of a rambly post of this. Just so you know. 😀

Whether I like is one thing, whether I can is another, lol. Because my dexterity is out of kilter – mildly but enough that it does affect some areas of my life and functioning – I never really had any spectacular achievements in the culinary field, in fact it often was exactly the opposite but at least the perk of it is that it can get interesting. 😀 When we had such class at school which involved cooking or baking among other things (I’ll write about that a bit more in detail later) I always preferred to have a bit of distance to my lack of abilities in this field so would tell people that I’d rather allow my creativity to flow freely rather than have some damn recipe rule my brain and tell me what I’m supposed to do. Who cares if it comes out inedible, lumpy or something? It’s a piece of art so it would be a sacrilege if you tried to eat it anyway. And esspecially when baking, I would openly show my weird creations around the class to the great amusement of the other kids. It’s always been one of my coping strategies that I’ll either laugh at myself or things that are happening, or distract people from something I don’t want them to talk about/notice by making them laugh, but in this case I didn’t really have a huge problem with my lack of culinary abilities, I don’t think they’re necessary these days in the age of caterings, though are certainly extremely useful. Probably a factor influencing this was that these classes were generally not very competitive as the few other kids who took part in them with me had some form of learning disability, which for most of them didn’t affect their dexterity or coordination so that they didn’t have exactly the same problems as me and with the same activities, but had others, often more challenging ones, instead, and so if they were laughing that was not really in a mean way, and I even sort of liked entertaining them. I had also a very good relationship with the teacher, she was in fact one of those adults there with whom I had quite a good relationship and liked them, I know she liked me a lot as well, and she was often very supportive of me.

I do not either cook or bake independently and never have, but when I do get enough individual support and guidance with that, the results can be tolerable, but then again, I feel like it’s not really exactly my merrit then, but rather the person’s helping me. This is quite an interesting and to a degree even fascinating field (maybe not hugely fascinating like to a degree my languages are to me or some other things but it’s interesting for me to observe how people cook or bake especially when they’re particularly talented and how something they’ve had in mind or some recipe on a piece of paper develops into something very specific it’s a little bit black magic to me 😀 ). My Mum says cooking is all about chemistry and physics, which I think is very true, but might be just another reason why I find it as tricky and a bit abstractive as I do, also with all the proportions in recipes and all that.

Going back to that class thing, what it was in fact was a sort of fusion of art class with stuff like knitting, cooking, baking and other manually focused activities. I have no clue how you call it in English if at all, but in mainstream schools here in Poland, children have class which is called the same but they learn things like calligraphy or how to pass a bike licence or such. In our blind school, that class probably wouldn’t work out or even have much sense in its mainstream point, so I guess they must have adapted it to be something more suitable to our abilities and useful at the same time. It was more like what people my parents’ age had at schools during the communism period which was called practical and technical activities, or something like that.

So as you can imagine knowing the above about my coordination and culinary skills already, I was generally super lame at that subject, but the teacher was always very understanding of me and I always got B’s at the end of the year, though wondered for what. 😀 I liked the cooking and baking because we typically did some very yummy things but at the same time felt useless because rather than contributing to it as much as everyone else did, I was more likely to screw something up, possibly ruining everyone else’s efforts as well, or at least come out with bleeding fingers or something unless I got a lot of help, and even if the other kids wouldn’t have additional difficulties, they were still blind, and blind people even when they’re only blind, do need to at least be shown individually how to do some things if they’ve never done them before, so she couldn’t focus all her attention on me even in such a small class where there were only like 4 people or so. So even if I didn’t have particular problems with the sole fact that I wasn’t able to cook or bake, it was still quite distressing in that class, at first.

Until somehow one day, I guess it was Mother’s Day, we were making cards for our mums, and I wanted to include a poem on mine, and I came up with it myself and the teacher wrote it on my card. I’ve always considered myself much better at prose than poetry and I do like writing prose much more thann poetry, but she decided that my poem was great and witty and long and to my huge embarrassment showed it to my class teacher and everyone else who was in the teachers’ room must have heard it as well although it was just for my Mum, and she couldn’t get over it as if I wrote God knows what a masterpiece. And since then, we’d developed an unwritten agreement of sorts with her. She would help me greatly with all the technical stuff – not just cooking and baking but anything that I found more challenging to do by myself so basically almost anything in that class – or would do the whole job for me if it needed to be done well and quickly, or I wouldn’t have to do it at all if there was something else I could do, and instead I would do a lot of writing if there was any need, especially for poems because these were typically writings on cards or other occasional stuff. For example there was one boy in the class for whom I wrote poems for his aunt who was his main carer I believe and he always seemed to like it so much. Or I would write for school – Teacher’s Day, enf of school year, Christmas etc. – I can’t say it was something I liked a lot, because just like I said I don’t really feel very comfortable in the world of poetry either as a writer or reader (except of Vreeswijk and a few other poets), and I found especially the school poems quite an annoying chore, but at least I could rhyme well and make even verses which were even a bit witty sometimes which seemed to be enough for everyone so I was glad there was something I could do better than cooking and make myself kinda sorta useful. The only type of poetry I enjoyed writing, for myself, were some spontaneous, weird, long-winded, full of wordplay, immature- or black-humoured poems whose topics I found hilarious and which made my roommates laugh. I guess though what must have been most funny about them was the language, the way I wrote them, rather than what I was writing about, that’s at least how I see it now, the plots themselves were mostly rather immature just like I said.

The good thing about that whole writing thing though was that sometimes there were art competitions organised somewhere in the country, and our school often took part in such thiings, especially if they were for people with disability. And since art competitions are often also literary competitions at the same time and you can choose which form you prefer, and my teacher knew I’m better at literature than art, she would always encourage me to take part in such things and then I could do a bit of prose. While everyone else was making their artworks, I would be making up some short story and then dictating it to the teacher (as they had to be in normal print typically). I didn’t like the dictating part really because, well, you often change your mind about stuff while writing, and with dictation there isn’t really as much room for that, you have to form your sentences well from the start, know what you want to be happening next in the plotline so that the other person doesn’t have to wait for ages until your creativity strikes, and at the same time it also requires a lot of spontaneity and is a bit like stream of consciousness writing in my view, only more stressful because you have to be mindful of the quality. I don’t know why I simply didn’t write these things on the computer or something, but I guess there must have been a reason. But overall it was always an exciting experience and one such time my dictated short story must have actually turned out quite good quality to the judges, because it got a first place – it was a Bible-inspired contest and I wrote a story inspired by the parable of the prodigal son and based on a real life story from my family. –

When I was out of school, I asked Mum to teach me some basic culinary stuff. I also thought I’d like to be able to help her a bit, because my Mum is the only person who cooks and bakes in our house –
Zofijka now does some occasional cooking or baking but only when she’s in the mood really, although she’s extremely good at it when she does do something. – And I thought it could be interesting and that maybe now that I’d have my Mum’s undivided attention it would be easier for me to learn and practice and for her to actually teach me things than for my teacher. It wasn’t really as good an idea as I expected though, because having to instruct me and often help me with more complex things made meal preparations longer and actually my input didn’t help at all, but instead contributed to Mum having to spend more time in the kitchen. Plus she didn’t really have the patience or the skills to teach, which I guess is a common thing with people who are self-taught at something. Finally one beautiful day I was grating vegetables and cut my finger really badly, and that was the end of my cooking adventures practically. 😀

Still, because I feel a bit sorry for Mum, even though she hardly ever complains, I traditionally ask her whether she wants help when she’s making some food but that’s more of politeness or something rather than I actually expect her to need/want my help or think I could be helpful, she’ll always say no but I ask anyway I guess to show her that I appreciate her efforts and would help if I could, in case she needed it. Sometimes she does say yes and then we do something together but that’s when she’s really got the time and energy to spare.

Given all that I wrote above, I don’t really know which of these activities I like more as I have very limited experience of them, but if I really had to choose I think I’d go with baking, there’s something atmospheric about it.

Okay, your turn now. 🙂

Question of the day.

Who taught you to cook?

My answer:

Me? Cook?! Well OK, I can cook a little, but only a little, and not without assistance. That little bit of cooking I can do, I learnt mostly at school, or at the boarding school where we’d sometimes cook something for ourselves usually at weekends, and I also know some things from my Mum, and help her out when I can and when she wants it, which is not very often as I usually end up with my fingers bleeding like hell or stuff spilled or messed up, as she puts it, in such a creative way that she’d never even know you can mess up food like this! 😀 So she prefers to avoid that. But sometimes I will help her anyway, regardless of how she feels about it, I like a bit of adrenaline sometimes. Apparently I make the best dough for pierogi, although what I do with it that is so unusual that others don’t I have no idea.

How about you? 🙂

Question of the day.

What can you produce from scratch? Whether it’s a wood carving, a cocktail, home grown cucumbers, painting, cake, piece of writing or the best barbecue for miles?

My answer:

I guess in my case it would be writing, writing and writing. 😀 Generally my manual skills suck completely, so anything else I attempt to produce turns out to be a perfect example of failure. But I love writing.

Your turn. 🙂

Question of the day.

Do you have any favourite recipes/dishes that have been passed down in your family?

My answer:

Yeah we have lots of cakes that my gramma started to bake and then my Mum started too. Or even so that my Mum was making something regularly for different holidays and people from my family stole it. Like her fabulous meringue dessert or orange juice cake. I love my Mum’s meringue, especially when it’s with blueberries. It is a meringue with whipping cream and different fruit. It’s very sweet so the fruit should be rather fresh and juicy, not very sweet like bananas for example. Most often we eat it with strawberries and blueberries, or raspberries, sometimes with cherries, billberries… It’s just sooo yummy everytime you eat it you regret you can’t eat more of it, but like I said it’s very sweet so you get stuffed rather quickly. It’s my Mum’s spectacular dessert. Everyone likes it and it’s easy to make, so any failure is impossible. Also my Mum’s chicken breasts in almond flakes are widely known in our family, as well as her podpiwek. Podpiwek is a Polish non-alcoholic beverage, but apparently before my Mum started doing it, most of our family didn’t even know how it tastes. It’s soooo yummy. And there are also my Mum’s pierogi, with cabbage and mushrooms. I mean, this kind of pierogi is very common in Poland at Christmas time, but people obviously have very varying recipes, plus, most people as far as I know make them with sour cabbage, which in my opinion is worse. All those foods I mentioned are my favourites, but there are many more.

Your turn now. 🙂

Question of the day.

Today my question for you is:

What’s your biggest screw up in the kitchen?

My Answer:

I am not very experienced in cooking, in fact, I’ve never prepared any meals completely on my own. I had some cooking lessons at the boarding school or we were doing some food for ourselves with other students, sometimes I help my Mum with most basic things, but generally I was never good at cooking, maybe because my fine skills are a mess, and I often felt kinda discouraged because I never succeeded in it and felt like it’s something impossible for me to learn. But although sometime ago it was a bit frustrating for me, now I don’t care that much about it, I don’t need to cook for myself, I live with my family, and there still are caterings, restaurants etc, lots of able-bodied people can’t cook as well.

So that being said, I suppose almost every activity I would try to undertake in the kitchen without assistance, would likely end with a massive screw up. The one I can recall at the moment was when I wanted to help my Mum to cut the carrot for the salad and almost ended up cutting my finger out, luckily it didn’t happen, but I hurt it pretty bad and there was a whole lot of blood allover afterwards and my right hand was non functional for quite a while. 😀

How about your screw ups? 🙂