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How to Get Cooking in the Kitchen

My first love of nature comes from food, and my first truly enjoyable hobby it cooking. Food is really many people’s love of nature, although cooking is something many people don’t “know” how to do. Luckily, there’s a way to gain some skill. I put myself on a project to learn how to cook after years of “cooking by the seat of my pants”. Here’s an outline of how you can develop some of your own cooking skill. It’s how I did it.

The Box Food Cook: Open, Arrange and Observe

Start with the easy stuff. If you really have little to no skill at all, the first step is to follow boxed recipes, make salads, assemble sandwiches, add already made sides (like potato chips or grocery store deli dishes) or heat up something prepared. But what can you learn from this? Start trying out different brands or changing something. Instead of boxed macaroni and cheese with cheese powder, add real shredded or grated cheese to the macaroni. Eat soups and salads while paying close attention to the flavors and textures that enter your mouth. Can you taste everything or are some things too faint compared to others that are too strong? Would you use all of the ingredients listed on the box or can or would you take something out? What else can you notice as you try similar but different kinds of foods in this phase?

The Avid Apprentice: Read, Follow, Copy and Learn

Move on to finding recipes as simple as you feel comfortable with and make them. Research whatever you want to as you go. Try similar recipes with enough difference for you to learn a little more about what makes a difference and what doesn’t. Notice proportions. There’s a reason vegetables come in cups or pounds and herbs in teaspoons or tablespoons. Taste. Taste. Taste. Try ingredients you encounter in recipes by eating them on their own. What do you notice about them on their own that may be different than in a recipe. You don’t need much, so just take tiny bits first (like a dip of a finger tip or a tiny slice). Then try more if a tiny bit isn’t enough to give a complete impression.

The Domestic Sous Chef: Time and Technique

Start following more complex recipes, change the ones you want to and try different techniques. I should advise that this is when things get a little costly, just because you might end up buying a lot of food. However, it can be worth it. You may want to concentrate on something particular, like learning how to prepare and cook meats or learning how to get different kinds of vegetables to cook evenly. Do more than one recipe at once, and pay attention to time (or timing). Learn how to plan and coordinate a full meal. Maybe invite some friends over after you’ve got some special dishes picked out. That’s what I did, and it made for a real sense of satisfaction to have friends enjoy such a labor of delicious love.

The Home Kitchen Chef: Explore, Experiment and Invent

Now, you are ready to think about what you might do differently if you were the one making the food for someone else (say something that you used to eat from a box). I ended up making bean dips from scratch after testing some combinations. Now, I hardly ever eat any store bought bean dip, because I can make it fresh! Think about what you’ve encountered in recipes and feel free to explore beyond it. Ask yourself, “what if I take the sauce from recipe A and mix it with the main dish ingredient from recipe B?” You may end up making something amazingly spectacular that becomes the dish everyone who knows you begs you to serve at the next party or gathering.

The Final Notes

Learning about food and how to cook can be time intensive, but it’s one of the best skills you can teach yourself. I’m so thankful I put time into it, and it has helped me get in touch with nature in a way that I don’t think I could have achieved another way. Even if you don’t follow these steps exactly, make sure you pay attention to what you eat, how it tastes and what it feels like.