Cooking is a sort of minor hobby. Started back in high school. On one hand my mother was an indifferent cook, so I quickly learned to do better. On the other hand participation in Track and Cross Country meant I had an enormous metabolism. Learned how to make cookies, breads, and large quantities of absolutely perfect brown rice. Once, as a school exercise, figured I was consuming 11,000 calories every day (while weighing less than 130 pounds).
Over the years I have occasionally experimented with different sorts of cooking. I like to experiment! What that means is that I try a lot of things that do not turn out - at first - but after a while I come up with extraordinary results, for whatever is my current interest.
My kids have learned to both value and distrust my cooking. :)
My kids are almost always interested in whatever I make (even when I try to scare them away). First, they sample (cautiously), then (if the result is good) they steal as much as they can eat. This strategy makes sense, as early experiments are often not very good, but later experiments are very good.
One of my favorite examples:
My teenage son walked in. He had just eaten at a fast-food joint. “I am so full, but the broccoli smells so good!” (Then he stole some of my freshly cooked broccoli.) How often do teenagers stuffed with hamburgers eat broccoli - of their own choice? :)
I like to experiment! That means I might use a recipe as a starting point, but - once I’ve learned what works - never use recipes, and never use exactly the same combination of ingredients. At first the results are uneven, but eventually I get good (or better!) results pretty much every time.
My latest cooking puzzle was pizza. I am allergic to tomatoes, onions, and garlic. That pretty much rules out all your usual recipes for pizza. Coming up with a feasible equivalent to the usual sorts of pizza sauce was a bit of a puzzle. (You can order a pizza w/o tomato-based sauce at many pizza joints, but the results are usually uninspiring.) Was watching a cooking show, when a bit of inspiration hit! Tomato sauce is sweet (somewhat), tangy, and (on pizzas) spiced. To make a somewhat sweet, tangy, spicy sauce - used unsweetened apple sauce, with lemon juice, paprika, peppers, and salt - and it worked! (The mass of cheese needs sauce as a sort of balance, so the “right” sauce is important.) First session making pizza, some things worked, some did not. Second session, some did not work, and some did (different than the first). Third session … pretty much everything worked, and really good pizza.
With any luck, the fourth session will take me into the profoundly evil category.
Already bought the ingredients. :)