Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paula & Roban

Photo of Meryl Streep portraying Julia Child in the movie Julie & Julia. Photo taken by Jonathan Wenk for Columbia/Sony.

For most girls growing up in the South, cooking is an art that is learned from their mothers, who learned how to cook from their mothers, who learned how to cook (well, you get the idea). For me, it just didn't happen. Instead of helping my mom cook, I was busy reading a book or playing outside with my friends. My job was to set the table before dinner and to clean up afterwards.

As I grew older, I learned how to make cross-wind landings in single-engine airplanes, how to pack a parachute, and how to turn flips in freefall. But the two things that continued to give me trouble were cooking and baking. I guess you could say that we just didn't mix very well.

I'll never forget the year my husband went out of town on my birthday, leaving us girls alone to celebrate. You can't celebrate a birthday without a cake, so we went to the grocery store and bought a box of cake mix, some frosting in a can, and decorations to go on top. Hmmm. We called that cake a "dinosaur wasteland" and not just because the decorations were tiny little dinosaurs. We gave it that name because it looked like a dinosaur wasteland. The frosting kept sticking to the cake, causing me to peel off huge chunks of cake every time I made a swipe to add more frosting. It wasn't a pretty thing at all.

And cooking? Well... other than cooking spaghetti and my own family recipe, I've left the kitchen to my husband. Let's just say he's done a lot (okay, make that 99.9%) of the cooking since we've been married. He's the kind of person who can come in and put together a meal in less than 30 minutes. Get me in the kitchen and a dish that's supposed to take 10 minutes to prepare and another 20 minutes to cook might take two hours to complete.

That is until now!

If you want to know what I've been up to this summer, look no further. I've been in the kitchen learning how to cook. Complete meals... not just a dish here or there... but complete meals!

No, I didn't run out and buy a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Instead I turned to any Southern gal's best pal in the kitchen (that would be Paula Deen), my neighborhood Publix store, and a few other trusted souls. With their help, I've been able to wow my family with some pretty good eating these past couple of months. And most importantly, I've begun to get comfortable in the kitchen. The acts of chopping vegetables, mincing fresh herbs, and stirring the pot have been rewarded with savory aromas and a pervading sense of well-being that I felt when I began to actually feed my family something good. Instead of feeling rushed and unsure of myself, I began to enjoy the process.

I can't wait to tell you about one of my family's favorite dishes.... It's Paula Deen's Herbed Stuffed Chicken Breasts (page 65 of The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook).

Paula Deen (courtesy of

When you read the recipe, you'll see that you have to pound the chicken breasts and then coat them on one side with cream cheese. After that, you place crumbled feta cheese on top. Then, you sprinkle basil, oregano, and Paula's House Seasoning over all of it. Next, (this is the fun part) you roll the chicken breast up and wrap a slice of uncooked bacon around it.

When I place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour melted butter on top, I just have to stand back and admire my creation. It looks like something you would be served in a nice restaurant... something cooked by a real chef!

If you haven't heard of Paula Deen, you may want to mosey on over to her Web site. You can read all about her or just skip to the recipes that are posted online.

I'll tell you more about what I learned from Publix and the other trusted souls in the weeks to come. Until then... as Paula says, "let's get cookin'!"


miruspeg said...

So I am the last person left standing that still doesn't cook!!

You sound "proud as punch" at your new skills in the kitchen Roban and rightly so. That chicken breasts with cream cheese and crumbled feta cheese on top sounds delicious.

Still I am sure you would never swap learning to fly, parachuting and freefalling if you had your time over again.

I love reading posts like this, the visual ones, the ones where it feels like we are sitting down and enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of coffee/tea and sharing little tit-bits about ourselves.

I feel very blessed to have a friend like you Roban.


Mummy McTavish said...

mmmmm, hang on while I wipe the drool from my chin... that sounded so yummy.

Good on you for getting in there and picking up a new skill. I love Delia Smith DVD's. She is has a very "proper" British accent which I love to listen to. She teaches the basics (although I still can't poach an egg her way) but puts them into real recipes. Instead of "here's how you poach an egg" it's "here's how you poach an egg and [another new skill] and [another new skill] now we'll put them all together in this dish". And she's so cute and has a beautiful house and garden that she shows you! 'Jamie's Ministry of Food' is another one that I am just getting into after Wolf downloaded some podcasts to my iPod (it wasn't a hint directed at me, Lion loves watching Jamie cook). I learnt to cook at home but I love to learn new skills in the kitchen and new dishes that the kids may just eat!

Roban said...

Peggy, I'm so lucky and blessed to have a friend like you. And you're right.... I wouldn't swap my flying and skydiving days! (That was my life back then.... and this is my life now (although I would be thrilled to jump again!).

Mummy McT... It sounds like we enjoy learning new things in the kitchen. I'll have to look up the two you mentioned. I wouldn't mind listening to a British accent myself!

AVT Coach said...

I too am a part of Peggy's club of non-cookers. I do however admire those of you who do love it and create such masterpieces. I especially like that you have chosen a new adventure for yourself. Hopefully you will find some recipes that don't take 2 hours so you can continue your craft after school starts. (What about Rachal Ray-30 minute meals? :)) Happy Cooking!!!! Loved the post!

Candace said...

My husband is the cook in our family too! I thought since I started staying home with Laurel that I would become the cook, but cooking with an 18 month old literally hanging on your leg is not easy (or safe!). So my husband is still the cook and he is so much better at it than me I think I just stick with him cooking (for now anyway)! I do make some mean chocolate chip cookies and I can make a really good lasagna from scratch, but it takes HOURS so poor Matt only gets in on his birthday! Thanks for the great info about Paula Dean, I may try a few of her recipes. I saw one of her cookbooks on the View. It was for kids, should be perfect for me!

SILVER said...

MMmmmm..Herbed Stuffed Chicken Breasts with feta cheese sounds ... Oooo.. a little light headed there. ;)


beth said...

I love that you have learned to cook...something I still haven't done !

I make enough to keep my family alive, but that's about it....

BUT....the julie and julia movie....well, it actually made me want to cook or learn to least a little bit... so that's a start !

AmpersandPrime said...

love me some Paula Deen!

I too am partnered with a great cook, and it can be a little intimidating to get in the kitchen. But I've found a few special dishes of my own to contribute and it feels good.

I respect your summer accomplishment and understand the pride you feel. :-)

beth said...

yipeee....I'm so glad you saw the movie...but french cooking intimidates me, too....

actually, making anything with more than 4 ingredients intimidates what I am talking about :)

charrette said...

I love this post! Do you really know how to fly a small plane? and sky dive? Amazing! Makes cooking sound like small potatoes. (pun intended)

I learned to cook by default because my mom taught piano most afternoons and evenings. And I find the chopping and mixing, the colors, the aromas...therapeutic. I'm glad you're learning to love it too.

charrette said...

p.s. Thank you for dropping by my blog last week. We were out of town, but I wanted to thank you for stopping by and for the kind words you left. Any friend of Heather's is a friend of mine!

Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom said...

Mmm, sounds delish! And you know what - the things you spent time learning when you were younger sound pretty amazing to me - you can learn to cook just about any time!

Love Paula, she is so cute! I got to see just the top of her head in Chicago a few weeks ago (she is shorter than I thought!) and it was so much fun just to listen to her talk!