Beginning Cook: Simple Lessons in Cooking
An Introduction to Cooking
Fewer and fewer of us grow up in families where cooking is as important a family ritual as going to church on Sunday or attending our children’s baseball or soccer games. We have become a culture of prepackaged, frozen, processed, carry-out or fast food. The deliberate preparation of healthful, nutritious and appetizing meals is something that has fallen into disfavor among most busy people. Dropping good food from our diet has had a negative consequence on our health and our social lives. As we struggle to pay bills we can find ways of eating better, eating together and eating well.
Cooking can be intimidating as a novice or a never, ever was cook. Cooking is a skill and like all other skills requires practice. One doesn’t pick up a pool cue, bowling ball or bow and arrow and use them consistently and reliable with out practice. Proficiency requires hours of practice. However, one can be quite happy, avoid ridicule and develop a fun sport with much less dedication. Cooking requires practice and patience.
One barrier to even trying to cook is the risk of failure. The cost of failure in cooking might be a kitchen full of smoke and a pizza run. The rewards far out weigh the costs. Many people want to be good cooks and are intimidated by those in their circle of friends or family who are good cooks never realizing that those “good cooks” were the beneficiaries of good training.
We learn to cook from our friends and family as much as we learn from a cook book. Who do we offer our first efforts to but family and friends? Bad reviews can feel quite personal. Because our first efforts are personal efforts we can get intimidated. Remain patient with yourself. Instead of abandoning cooking and give in to the prepared world it would be best to keep practicing.
One way that practice can become more rewarding is starting simply and keeping things simple until you gain confidence in your skills at preparing and presenting simple, efficient, tasty dishes. Perhaps this is why so many people love to cook breakfast or barbeque. The basic ingredients are basic and hearty. They are simple to prepare and easy to clean up. Most breakfast foods are inexpensive, plentiful and fresh. (That is a key to good cooking we will revisit.)
People who don’t eat bacon or drink coffee frequently concede that they enjoy the aroma of brewing coffee and frying bacon. Two things easily prepared yet appealing to the senses. Simple and easy, a very good place to start. For the absolute beginner even these things can become intimidating. What if I use too much coffee? What if I burn the bacon? Doubt and impatience will undo your efforts in any endeavor no matter how ordinary. Take your time, practice, seek improvement and then take another step. One step at a time can mean adding cinnamon to your coffee or scrambled eggs to the menu.
It is important to focus on the cooking when you are preparing food. Burned food is usually a focus problem. We have so much to do that it seems almost impossible to focus on cooking. Practice, patience and focus – sounds like learning to hit a golf ball or baseball – and it is. If you are hitting you don’t think about the laundry or an oil change but you focus, instead, on hitting. If you remain focused on the bacon and the coffee you will not burn up your kitchen.
So there you have it. The very basics of cooking begin with things that extend to most everything else we do.
1) Patience with the process – things take as long as they take and cannot be rushed.
2) Practice – cooking is a skill and as a skill requires more than just jumping in.
3) Focus – cooking requires heat, lots of it. Boiling water, hot oil, gas flames, electricity and fire itself.
4) Patience with your self – you will only learn so fast and perform so well. Everyone has a natural limit; it is good to not accept any premature limitations. One of the ways we impose premature limitations is to lose patience with ourselves. Don’t.
And so ends the first lesson. Take your time. Give something you want to try a fair shot. Don’t give up. Planning, ingredients and innovation will be in part 2.