Bill tells me regularly that he thinks I’m turning into a better cook by the day, and he’s always grateful for whatever I cook.

However, I’m still pretty poor at figuring out how to throw food together and have a meal result.

In fact, my confession is that I’m not only “poor” at it, I basically have no functional ability to look at my stash of food and make a delicious meal come out of it. And it’s not as if my stash is small. I have a decent sized set of shelves that I call my pantry (it’s ugly, but it works) that’s stuffed to the gills with food & ingredients, I have a fridge which is usually between “somewhat full” and “burstingly full”, I have the freezer that lives on top of the fridge and is always full, AND I have an apartment-sized stand-alone freezer. I don’t know how many cubic feet it is, as it was a gift from my great-grandmother when she moved in with my folks, but it’s not tiny. And, really, it’s a second freezer! A second freezer that is always full to bursting!

Needless to say, when I spent copious amounts of time staring at my pantry and my fridge & freezers on Saturday, and came up with squat for cooking, I felt a little bad. When we finally gave in and ordered Thai food delivery around 9pm, I felt really bad.

Until the crab rangoons showed up. Then I felt delighted, though they are not a healthful food.

Anyway, rangoons are not the point. The point is that I still find myself thinking I’m a bad cook, despite the fact that what I do cook tends to be more hits than misses. I’m clearly getting a feel for “heat” and “no, the cookbook says 7 minutes, but it clearly needs more/less time than that” and such, but I’m still not putting flavors together well.

And let’s not even discuss things like, “side dishes”, shall we? I’m really nowhere near there. Though, I will admit, I’m going to try to manage a cooked side with dinner tonight. I’m going to try to make mashed (blue) potatoes to go with our braised oxtail. I’m terrified. Probably the oxtail will end up as dessert for the taters. This is how it often goes in this house.

How do you guys figure out a meal just from your pantry? How did you learn what flavors are awesome buddies? Or, if you want to discuss “advanced knowledge” how do you decide on sides? And how do you manage kitchen timing?