One of the things I share with my mom is my love for cooking. Linked to this love is also our obsession with the Fox television show, MasterChef. Our interest comes from the inspiration that great cooks can come from all walks of life. The home cooks this season are from numerous backgrounds spanning from an English teacher to a septic systems foreman to a revenue analyst. I will never become the next MasterChef with my poor knife skills and my lack of multitasking, but as Chef Gusteau famously says in the animated film, Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook.” I stress this for all the people that say, “I’m a terrible cook” or “The only thing I can make is toast” (my sister said that once). If you were not raised to cook, learning and teaching yourself is a daunting task.
(Raspberry Pork Chops)
“I don’t have the time.” This is probably the most universal excuse for not willing to cook. If you factor in the time you spend watching people’s Snapchat stories, scrolling through Facebook, or squeezing in an episode of The Office (I’m throwing myself under the bus right now), you definitely have time to spare for a homemade meal. We don’t all have the talent of coming up with recipes from the top of our heads, but that’s what cookbooks and online recipes are for! There’s even a Cooking Basics for Dummies cookbook. Don’t worry, I’m not calling you a dummy. If you hate cleaning the dishes, I mean who actually likes cleaning dishes, wash them while your food is simmering, in the oven, etc. This will save you a boatload of time after your meal.
I am lucky enough to have grown up with cooking. When I was little, I was tasked with stirring the pasta or cracking the eggs. When you begin your cooking journey (dramatic huh?), you don’t even need to necessarily follow recipes. Start small. Boil water, chop fruits and veggies, etc. You will gain skill through practice, like many aspects of life. Unlike book smarts, though, you cannot improve your cooking by studying recipes. Get your hands dirty. Your first dish will most likely not be a perfect French coq au vin. I made this a few weeks ago and it was not easy. Don’t overwhelm yourself with impossible tasks. Also, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. It’s cliché I know, but I tend to shy away from things I think I can’t perfect. (I really, really don’t think I would be any good at billiards). Some of the most iconic dishes were made by mistake. Think of nachos, chocolate chip cookies, and potato chips! Like Bob Ross says, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Although, I would say my apartment neighbors burning burgers in the oven at 11:45 at night and setting off the building’s fire alarms is no happy accident.
(Mussels in Butter and White Wine)
Good cooking is born from a willingness to learn. Do you think you’ve passed your peak ability to learn? I think not. It’s extremely helpful to have a seasoned palate, but you can develop it over time. When you’re cooking, continually taste your dish in progress. Taste, taste, taste! Great cooks obviously go beyond the basic techniques. These cooks have a strong grasp on what textures and flavors belong together. They press the boundaries of what foods belong together. Watching a seasoned cook is like watching a racehorse’s legs in full motion. A quick dip of the spoon into the pot, a taste, a pinch of salt there, and a stir. You’re first cooking experiences will probably not be speedy, but you will get there. Practice, practice, practice.
(Lamb Chops with Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Carrots, and Cauliflower Mash)
After a bad day, the last thing you will want to do is cook a homemade meal. Cooking can seem like a chore. Just picture your final product! You can also make it an event. Crank up the music and ready your singing voice. My go-to is Billy Joel. “Piano Man” never fails me. Pour yourself a glass of wine or crack open a beer. If you know what your meal will be, prep the night before if you can. Involving other people can make the cooking experience more enjoyable, too. Invite friends over and give them individual tasks. If you have a spouse or children, give them work to do. It can be a learning experience for the whole family.
(Arugula and Red Berry Salad with Avocado, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese)
Not everyone can be a MasterChef, but do you have the desire to cook? Do you have confidence in yourself and inspiration? If so, cooking will come naturally over time. Keep practicing and keep learning. With ideas teeming in your mind and your Pinterest board overflowing, go forth and create something amazing.