Grandma’s Maxims


Grandma LindaUse your own judgment.  You are the one living your life and you know more about what is going on in your own life than anyone else.  So you need to use your own judgment as much as possible.


You can’t change scientific laws.  It is always going to take a certain amount of time for water to come to a boil in your kitchen.  You can figure out what that time is, but you can’t instantly boil water.  You have to allow enough time to do what needs to be done.


One size does not fit all.  You are only cooking for the people you are cooking for.  You don’t have to please anyone else.  Cook the food that these people like in the way that they like it.  Tailor your menus and recipes to your family’s likes and dislikes.  It doesn’t really matter what anybody else thinks as long as the food is safe, healthy, and tasty to your family.


Discipline yourself.   Cooking takes work.  It is not instant.  However there are many rewards to cooking.  You will only realize these rewards if you actually plan, cook and clean up.  You need to be your own self-starter.  Discipline means doing it when you are tempted not to do it.  Don’t be a slob. 


Work smarter not harder.  Your best tool is your brain.  If you can figure out an easier way to do something, do it.  Think about what you are doing and see if you can think of an easier way to do it.  I used to use a separate skillet to heat the Canadian bacon when I was making Eggs Benedict.  Then I figured out that I could just heat the Canadian bacon on top of the toasted English muffin under the broiler at the last minute.  It is easy, it accomplishes the task (heating the meat) and it saves dirty dishes.  This is smarter not harder.


Keep it simple sweetie!  Give yourself a break and don’t plan menus that are too difficult for your skill level or involve too many dishes or are too much work.  If anyone expects you to put on gourmet restaurant meals, let them cook!  Cooking is necessary and important, but you need time to do other things too.  You can burn out if you set unreasonable expectations on yourself.  You are going to be cooking for a long time, so remember to not overdo in any one meal.


Live and learn.  You are going to make mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes.  If you learn from your mistakes, then that is all that is required.  You will buy things that spoil before you use them.   You will buy the wrong equipment.  You will try recipes that are horrid (hopefully not on this website).  Get over it.  Learn from your mistakes and don’t beat yourself up.  You are human, not perfect.


Be kind.  When you cook, do so with kindness, kindness to yourself, your guests, and the planet.  Sometimes a word is enough, sometimes a thank you to someone who is helping you, sometimes a product that is easier on our planet.   If your significant other has had a hard day, offer to do all the work yourself.  Think of kind actions to do for all, including yourself.


If in doubt, throw it out.  When I was in high school, I was the lab assistant for home economics one year.  One of my chores was to clean out the refrigerators.  From that experience, I learned that there is nothing more disgusting than moldy left-overs.  So, unless you have definite plans to use some leftover (including egg yolks, egg whites, etc.) in the next 3 or 4 days, it is better to get rid of it upfront.  Also, never ever serve any leftover that you have a single doubt about its safety.  One trip to the emergency room will cost more than any savings on food leftovers for a year if you serve someone something that makes them sick.  Your first goal as a cook should be to first do no harm!


Write it down.  When possible, write down your menus.  The act of writing will help you remember them as well as assist in your planning.  You also will avoid forgetting some dish that you had bought all the ingredients for, but forgot to make.  Also, start a family cooking notebook.  Keep notes on what works and doesn’t and put them in the book.  Include recipes that your family likes.  Almost all cooks have had the experience of losing a recipe and spending many hours trying to find it again.  A family cooking notebook is an easy way to pass family memories and recipes down to your children.  Unwritten recipes are usually lost forever.


Haste makes waste.  It is easy to get in a hurry and try to skip steps and do too many things at a time.  That is usually when you end up burning something or forgetting a key ingredient or making something inedible.  Take a deep breath, relax, focus, do it right the first time.


Don’t spend dollars to save cents.  I have bought lots of kitchen gadgets, but I have never bought an onion keeper.  I can’t see spending $8 to save 10 cents worth of onion.  If you have 25 cents worth of leftover frozen vegetables, is it worth using a bag that costs 10 cents to save something that you will probably throw away anyway?  Why make something using leftovers that your family won’t eat?