12/12/2006 07:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fearless Baking: Now I Don't Have A Choice

fearless baking.jpgIt was my birthday on Friday. Oh, what the hell — I turned 34 (but I reserve the right to turn 34 again next year). The point is, less than two weeks before my 34th birthday, I bought pots. Most people were amazed that I did not previously own pots, but that was before I explained that I had never used my oven, and used my stovetop for my dishrack. New York apartments are notoriously small and my cute little studio is no exception — space is at a premium, which is one of the reasons that I only have a mini-fridge. Great for leftovers, cheese, and chilling Diet Coke. I love my apartment because it's bright, comfortable, has an internet connection, and holds my clothes (the floor, too, is great for that). All of this works for me just fine because, for right now, at least, I don't cook.

It's not that I can't cook. I can, sort of. At summer camp, I remember cooking a gourmet meal for some of the staff (and my super-cute Unit Head) on the second-last night of camp. My specialty was baked potatoes with cheese melted over broccoli. I was also very good at melting cheese on bread. In Grade Twelve (hey, it's how we say it in Canada) I went through a phase where I experimented with baking without butter. And sugar. (No, applesauce is not a viable substitute.) In university, in a vain attempt to stave off the frosh fifteen, I used to melt fat-free cheese over broccoli, onions and cauliflower in the cafeteria microwave. That earned me few friends. (And didn't work, which may have had something to do with how I would borrow everyone else's meal cards to get another bowl of ice cream.) Living on my own at university (what we Canadians call "college"), I learned to be an intrepid combiner of foods, especially on a student budget; I learned how to make a delicious, hearty soup by adding a variety of cans (chick peas! corn! kidney beans!) and approximate favorite foods using whatever was at hand (I swear to God, the Cornflakes version of nachos that my roommate Stacey and I made with a little cheese and salsa was actually good. We called them "Cornchos."). I lived at home during law school (highly recommended, especially with an in-house lawyer Mom) and anyway, my boyfriend, Johnny, loved to cook. In fairness, I did try to help but I wasn't very efficient — he'd be already finished chopping the onions before my one lopsided pepper was done (in fairness again, it was only because I was very meticulous about cutting away the spotty parts). When I moved to New York, I scored, big time: My roommate LOVED to cook. I, of course, loved to watch. And eat. I figured I was learning by osmosis.

As it turns out, I was not — proof of this is in the fact that I actually have screwed up boiling water in a microwave. A recent Valentine's Day saw me boiling pasta for a romantic dinner...that is to say, fresh pasta (and soon, soggy pasta). Though I only set something on fire in the toaster oven once — okay, twice — it was pretty safe to assume that the cooking gene had eluded me. So, I just stopped trying.

Hence the no pots. Except that somewhere over the past few months, I've found myself really wanting pots. I had big plans to bake cookies for Thanksgiving and found myself disappointed when they fell through. I bought some broccoli and melted cheese on it in the microwave, like in the old days. I thought nostalgically of hard-boiled eggs, imagined whipping up an omelette the next time I put some of those eggbeater-things in a bowl and watched them grow fluffy in the microwave.

So, almost two weeks ago, I bought a set of pots, and a few saucepans to boot, at this terrific little store with excellent prices and a non-judgmental saleslady. And then I took them home and washed them (I do do dishes, you know) and then made a can of soup (with chick peas — delicious). I put the saucepans in the oven (because isn't that where they go?) and thought about how life would change.

Well, it hasn't, so far, but it just might, thanks to two intrepid ladies of the HuffPo: Melissa Lafsky and Arianna Huffington. Melissa, one of my friends who loves to cook (it was she who planted dreams of baking cookies in my head over Thanksgiving) got me a birthday present last week: the gift of "Fearless Baking," which should be oxymoronic for someone like me, but the "Any Season Fruit Crumble" on page 63 actually looks doable. And Arianna, the original Ambassador of Fearlessness herself, just threw the gauntlet down today on national TV, going on Martha Stewart to bake melomakarona, which would sound sort of painful if it didn't look so delicious. After that, what choice do I have? Arianna, I'll make you a deal: I'll whip up some cookies in exchange for one of them "Fearless" aprons. In fact, I'll whip up that Any Season Fruit Crumble too, and add some baked-potato-with-broccoli and cheese to boot. Soggy pasta? I won't make that mistake three times. It'll go great with delicious tomato sauce and roasted garlic (time for another toaster-oven fire!). Chick peas, you can stay in your cans; I'm talking about eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocadoes; cheese, flour, butter, milk, and unsweetened chocolate squares; olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemons, and limes; lettuce, darker lettuce, and that other kind of lettuce that is sort of bitter; carrots, celery, leeks, onions and chicken stock. It's going to be so much fun — I can't wait to stock up on groceries! Though, someone may need to lend me a fridge.