The Best ‘Cooking Manual’ EVER

Want to make beef stroganoff? How about coq au vin?

Intimidated? Don’t be. I’ve got something better than a recipe, which is simply a list of ingredients and written instructions. Sometimes, what the chef-authors describe in writing doesn’t translate into a tasty meal. It’s easy to miss a step or to be unfamiliar with a cooking technique.

I’ve got a secret weapon, which is neither a secret per se’ nor a weapon that could do bodily harm. It is the one and only, Chef John, and his website, Food Wishes. He’s a vlogger who video records his recipes and it’s genius.

My son and I got so into this website, and process, then we emailed Chef John to thank him for all the great tips and recipes. And, like a cool dude, he wrote back.

Here’s the backstory about how I got into this website, and back into the hobby of cooking. Frankly, it’s a rather sad story.

My mother passed away in October of 2017 after a hard-fought battle with Leukemia. I won’t delve into what happened when she was first diagnosed or what transpired in over the next ten months. That’s a story for another time.

You won’t be surprised to hear this was emotionally devastating for me. Several weeks after she passed, I was sitting at work on a boring Friday morning and remembered her cooking. If there was one thing my mother could do well… it was to botch a recipe. Yes, you read that right. She was no Julia Child! She was an attentive and loving mother and she adored her grandson. I loved her and always will. But her cooking? Let’s just say my grandmother was the cook in the family whom I most admired.

As I sat there at work, a month after her passing, I thought about these memories and I laughed out loud. No one else did. It was my first real moment of respite in weeks, if not months. Then I laughed again and it felt fantastic.

At that moment, I decided to get back into cooking. I had been living on protein bars and Nestle Nesquik chocolate shakes when I was my mother’s caregiver for long stretches of time. I wanted a slow-cooking meal that would take hours to make and permeate the house with wonderful aromas.

And then I found this recipe. It required a dutch oven and not the kind that involves bed sheets and flatulence. So, I walked down Broadway in Manhattan, found a store called Whisk, and found a Le Creuset dutch oven for $360.00…

… Which prompted me to look for another brand and I found one made by Lodge that cost $160.00. Sold!

I carried this twenty-five-pound behemoth home during my commute and the Chef John video recipe was so easy to follow it made me feel like a hero on Sunday. Wine definitely helped to exacerbate the moment. Ever since then we’ve made a fun family meal almost every weekend.

At some point, when you’re dealing with grief, an opportunity presents itself to flip things around – embrace it.

You don’t have to be a great chef or a great father to cook well, but if you can be a better chef and spend more time with your family, you will be a great father.

Chef John was cool enough to write back to us after we reached out.

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