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As a Navy Ensign decades ago, I started cooking by necessity when I could neither afford to go out for every meal nor stand the taste of "Hamburger Helper" or other processed meal starters night after night. My first attempts in the kitchen were disasters (e.g. "laser tomato sauce" - I wanted to add a little "action" to the sauce and used a jar of jalapenos instead of just a dash of red pepper), but I kept at it. I read recipes printed on the sides of food packages, like quick sauce recipes on pasta boxes, and those I understood, I'd try. A few sympathetic neighbors gave me tips about how to improvise and modify those recipes to enhance the flavor. My mother gave me a few standard cookbooks, and though I appreciated the thought, I closed them about as quickly as I opened them because none of them had many, if any, pictures or illustrations. They were also full of cooking terms I didn't understand, required cooking equipment I didn't have and were too time consuming even to want to attempt.
It was only when I began feeling comfortable in the kitchen that I tried looking at cookbooks again. The only problem was, the more I read, the more I began to feel that there must be a lot of people like me who look at these books and "just don't get it". That frustration motivated me to put together recipes like those I'd hoped to find but never found when I was starting to cook. When I had enough of them, I started producing "Tackling the Kitchen", a series of half hour local access cable television shows that aired in Los Angeles for three years (until my wife and I started having children).
"Tackling The Kitchen" was different than any other cooking show in that it relied only on equipment normally found in an everyday kitchen, it explained every cooking preparation step fully without the use of pre-cut ingredients or pre-cooked finished results, and every recipe presented on the show could be completed by a true beginner at home in half an hour or less. Those recipes and, most importantly, the method of presenting them are the foundations of Western Cooking In Plain English.
Bruce Tretter |
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