What are you worried about? That you’ll mess up dinner? Dude, we live in America. There’s 24-hour restaurants and literally a Starbucks/McDonald’s on every corner. You will not starve if you fuck something up. Gordon Ramsay will not magically appear and yell at you if you mess something up. You might waste a little money and food, but again, it’s America, you’ll be okay. Just start off with cheap ingredients, like breakfast or pasta, read some recipes, and you’ll be fine.
I get so irritated when someone posts a recipe on Facebook and is like, “someone make this for me?!” Make it your damn self! It’s not that hard- I promise. If you mess it up, just eat the evidence it ever existed!
I’m always perplexed when someone says they don’t know how to cook, or worse, they plain can’t cook. With that attitude, all your food will taste like helplessness! You like to eat don’t you? You like food, don’t you? Don’t make me do all the cooking! I love it, but damn, people, learn how to cook! Cooking is not a talent, it is a skill. Therefore, anyone can be an excellent cook.
How I Learned
I love food. I love to travel because it’s an excuse to eat. I love to read cookbooks, I like to watch the Food Network, and I love movies about food. I like to read about people who cook, and why. I like to learn about how stuff is made, where it comes from, and why people do things a certain way. So cooking is just something that does come natural to me. While I don’t consider cooking a talent, I do think that a passion for food helps someone become a good cook.
Both my mom and dad are great cooks, and most of my childhood memories involve cooking and entertaining. So, I learned from an early age the pleasure of home cooked food. My dad also kept our family room well stocked with books and cook books, which I loved to go through and pick my favorites.
In high school, I had quite a few jobs, but my favorite was working as a waitress at a tiny diner (we’re talking six tables, max). In addition to taking orders, I made up plates, did a little bit of food prep and a crap ton of cleaning. Nothing makes people happier than bringing them food, so it was a rewarding job. Plus, the owners let me take leftover mashed potatoes home at the end of the day. I mean medical and dental insurance is cool, but unlimited mashed potatoes? What a great perk.
After boot camp, in tech school, was the first time I didn’t have access to home cooked food daily, and it was terrible. And most of time off from school i spent looking for food, and I usually ended up at a fast food place or the class six (a military 7/11). Thanks E-2 pay, you got me started on a lifelong love affair/addiction with junk food.
At tech school I had a lot of fun cooking my first large meal- I made lasagna for everyone in the barracks. Spaghetti and lasagna were my first go-to recipes. That and breakfast. All the eggs on the ship tasted like lettuce, and the only scrambled eggs you could get were chopped up omelets. Anyway, for years, I perfected breakfast foods and Italian dinners. Luckily, I was on a ship and there were always plenty of hungover friends to cook for. I also assigned as a “Mess Crank” my first few months aboard the ship- which was basically like being a dishwasher/waitress/janitor/sous chef for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On shore duty I got really into cooking, and learned to cook for big groups. There was just more time to tinker in the kitchen. Plus, when I was stationed at WHCA I had the chance to host departmental barbecues and shop for the snack fund (like a vending snack area that we stocked ourselves). It was interesting to see what people liked and figure out the math for serving large groups.
Over the years I’ve just learning and eating, trying out harder and harder recipes. When I go out to eat I tend to order things I don’t know how to make or have never had- when I find something I like, I try to recreate it at home. One of my favorite (albeit time consuming things), is trying to make things from scratch- chicken broth, bagels, pasta, once I even made butter.
I just really enjoy the science behind food and learning the chemistry behind why some things taste good and work and some things don’t. Cooking is like history, culture, chemistry all wrapped up in one. And you have to eat every day, so why not learn to cook properly?
Get Ready to Try!
(Click the links for more info)
Learn basic kitchen safety, and how not to burn your house down or cut your fingers off or poison yourself or others. Check your first aid kit, the fire extinguisher, the smoke alarm, and the exhaust fan.
Organize your kitchen.
You can’t cook if your don’t know where anything is. I’m easily frustrated so this step helps immensely. Get rid of the millions of random Tupperware, find your key tools, purge multiples (unless they are cookie sheets, or measuring cups and spoons- can’t have enough of those). Ensure you have basic kitchen equipment. If you don’t go to Goodwill- they always have everything. Invest in better stuff once you’re a better, more frequent cook.
Stock the Pantry with Essentials.
Salt, pepper, hot sauce, flour, sugar, baking soda, oil, butter, condiments, milk. Everything else is extra. Wine helps. Here’s an extended list, but honestly, my kitchen is pretty bare most of the time.
Make Cleaning Up Easier.
Ensure you have rubber gloves, stacks of kitchen towels, dish washing soap, trash bags, sponges, steel wool, spray disinfectant, and paper towels. Clean up as you cook. There’s no reason to have a stack of shit to wash by the time your meal is ready. Again, this is why it’s useful to have multiple measuring cups. GET A SCRUB DADDY. He’s just the best, and it’s nice to have something to make you smile when you’ve messed up making Guacamole for the 1000th time (I just never get it right!)
Learn to Read Recipes
Learn to read recipes (it’s different than a Game of Thrones novel). Alton Brown knows everything you ever need to know. Watch his show, you’ll be a chef in no time. Plus he uses a lot of sock puppets, which is entertaining.
Assume You Don’t Know Anything.
I read recipes for scrambled eggs all the time. I know how to make scrambled eggs. But again, it’s always nice to review and to learn new things. So pick something you already know how to make, and find a recipe for it. Read the recipe twice, and make it that way. Incorporate what you already know with how you’ve made the recipe- and boom. You’re on your way. Do this for everything you make and soon you’ll be cooking like Julianne. 😊
I’ll do more posts on how to cook and kitchen stuff in the future. But in the meantime, please learn how to cook. Your significant others/kids/dogs will love you for it, especially if you’re a bad at it first- your dog will mega love you.
I would be happy to come and try anything you make.