Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Cooking question

How do you learn to cook.
Where do you start?

I started by calling my mother (I'd just moved out into my first shared apartment) and asking her how to broil a potato. I knew how to do it, I even had books that could tell me the details, but I felt uninspired and homesick. So I called.

I learned to cook from my mother and my grandmother; but if you'd asked me if I cooked before I moved out -- I'd have said no. I baked, but I didn't cook. Not really. Not meals.

It took years before I realized that I do like to cook, and I do know how to cook -- I'm just often uninspired. The realization came when I got into the habit of cooking for others (which is still my preference). I, like so many others, dislike cooking for just myself.

So, what do I say to friends/family who want to lean to cook? Usually something pithy like "Cooking is easy. You already know how." Great help I am, eh?

But, for those learning to cook, I recommend the following:
  1. Get a cook book. Not one of the fancy ones, but something that promises to teach you the basics. I learned a lot from reading the Joy of Cooking. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is equally good. But there are others. Googling "Beginner cooking" turns up 3,100,000 hits; and as many of those seem to be articles as they are cookbooks.

  2. Get started. Pick a recipe, read it all the way through, and then try to make it. Don't be put off by long recipes that take time.

  3. Make a list of the recipes you want to make. Assign one to each night you'll be home and have the time and energy to cook. Make a list of their ingredients and take it with you when you shop. Congratulations! You've just made a menu plan and a shopping list.

  4. Equipment. Be minimalistic. Buy only what you absolutely need at first. Kitchen equipment is like most gadgetry -- there's a ton out there and most is specialized for one or two things.

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