When Micah and I were dating, I decided to make him dinner one night when he had a big project to finish and couldn’t be bothered by little things like eating. This was the first time I had cooked for him by myself as we started cooking together when we started dating, and I was eager to impress. I looked through the cookbooks and found a recipe that I sort of almost had the ingredients for. I know I had pasta. And it called for dijon mustard, but I figured I could just use yellow mustard. I didn’t have the cheese soup it called for, but I did cream of mushroom that I was sure would be just as good. I didn’t have ham, either, so I thought I would make it a little bit more healthy by substituting celery. That was the night that I found out Micah doesn’t like celery . . . especially cooked celery. I thought it was fine, though, so I ate the leftovers for the rest of the week.
For Valentine’s Day Micah got me a cookbook I have been wanting for a while now, and I think maybe the memory of that meal is part of the reason I am now the proud owner of The New Best Recipe. This is the book that tells you why you can’t just go around substituting salted for unsalted butter (or celery for ham), why you need to mix the batter for only 37 seconds, why it is okay to use the same pan to saute the tomatoes that you just sauted the mushrooms in. It’s great for someone like me who reads cookbooks the same way she reads novels, and who needs a little extra motivation to keep from throwing all of the scraps into a pot and calling it dinner. Another plus: this is where our friend Lizzie Skinner got her recipe for Perfect Lizzie Cookies (as her friends like to call them), which I have been dying to make since I first had one.
Of course, last night as we were making dinner, I found myself biting my tongue on multiple occasions as I was reading through recipes and thinking, “Well, we don’t have fresh tarragon, but I’m sure basil would be just as good . . . .”