I’ve always enjoyed cooking but wouldn’t really say I’m all that great at it. I stick more or less to basics.
Between work and child I’ve never had time to spend all day periodically basting or kneading or reducing.
And I have the nonsensical habit of trying something new on guests, much to my own chagrin when the evening’s fare draws polite nods. You’d think I’d learn.
This is why I’ve been surprised when my cooking has at times garnered praise that, by Swiss standards, seems almost gushing. “This cake is amazing! Wow, you used bananas? Did it take a long time to make? Is this an American speciality?”
“Why thank you, it was no trouble really,” I reply. “It’s called banana bread. I’m happy to share the recipe.” Score one for the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook!
(Mothers across the US send their kids off to college with this Bible of basics. It includes instructions on complex culinary techniques like “Bake: to cook food, covered or uncovered, using the direct, dry heat of an oven.” And sometimes nifty pronunciation guides like “proh-SHOO-toh.”)
Lemon bars drew the same amazement. As did carrot muffins. And the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Have I recently become a culinary genius? Actually, just as my daily life as a foreigner provides ample opportunity to wonder at and learn from the culture here, perhaps a few of those Swiss I interact with experience something new as well.
Of course, I hope most of that is good. Offering a chocolate chip cookie probably doesn’t hurt.
And perhaps sometimes, with all that comes with being American, the expectations for us are a bit low. We are, after all, the culture of McDonald’s. So maybe it’s a pleasant surprise when one of us knows how to make a nice torte.
Either way, I’m happy they’ve liked my efforts. I’ll keep at it, hoping to forge goodwill and understanding one lemon bar at a time.