I donít fear much anymore about food. But I remember all the different phases of fear Iíve been through during my lifetime of gardening, entertaining, feeding a family, and just plain cooking.
The first phase was a fear of somehow poisoning my family and myself by serving something I shouldnít. For instance, I knew rhubarb leaves were toxic, but what about eggplant skins? Iím still not sure whether or not you can eat the skin on ginger. What about beet leaves? Which berries are edible and which ones arenít? Experienced gardeners and cooks often take their knowledge for granted, but I do remember being young and afraid. In fact, the only time I ever ended up in the emergency room was when I was little and had eaten a berry from a yew bush (even though my cousin begged me not to!). I survived, and so does the memory of hunching over a stainless steel bowl in the hospitalís emergency room after being dosed with syrup of ipecac.
Then there is the fear of people not being impressed by my efforts. Is my cooking or my garden good enough to share with others? Do they like it? Do they really, really like it? I started cooking at about the same time Martha Stewart was rising in popularity, and it all seemed so damned hard! Consequently, I went for more than a decade without throwing a dinner party just because I felt I wasnít good enough. (It didnít help that I became so distracted around guests that I more than once set the kitchen on fire. Stopping drinking helped my kitchen concentration skills.)
Only in the past 10 years or so have I vanquished most of my fears and come into my own as a cook. To do this, I developed and perfected a technique I call Extreme Simplicity.
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