How to cook, cooking for beginners, cooking without recipes

From the Dark Side of the Fridge: Learn to Cook

FoodBasicsFotoedited

Last month, I went on a tear about how TV (in the person of Chef Gordon Ramsey) is totally messing us up about what is good home cooking. Shortly after my little call to action to encourage folks to cook more at home, I realized that I’d stepped in it. Part of the reason a lot of folks don’t cook at home is that they don’t know how to cook.

I’m not talking about following a recipe. That’s not that hard to do, and many folks do it quite successfully. But being able to recognize that there’s a problem with a recipe, knowing what to substitute when you discover you don’t have a critical ingredient, being able to figure out when you really need to follow this or that step and when you can buzz on to the next one – you need to know how to cook to do all that.

And even if you do know the basics of cooking, day to day cooking is a grind. I’ll admit it. I don’t particularly like cooking. Come 6 p.m., I would much rather be folding my hands around a dry martini than a wet flounder, to quote my patron saint Peg Bracken, author of The I Hate to Cook Book. I know foodies snub it because so many of the recipes rely on canned soup. But, seriously, it’s actually an early feminist tract. The book came out in 1960, the heart of The Mad Men Era, when women were expected to find caring for their loved ones the end-all, be-all of their lives and here’s good, old St. Peg suggesting that women could find other things more fulfilling, even if the cooking still had to get done.

In any case, I began to understand the real reason for this space. I need to teach folks how to cook. And I’m the best one to do it because, unlike folks who genuinely find it relaxing to come home and start chopping veggies, I don’t. I get it that you’ve got a mess at work to untangle, three kids to keep from killing each other, and a guilty conscience for giving in and stopping at the drive-through window for the third time this week. No, you’re not particularly interested in whipping up a meringue by hand for a dessert after making a full dinner (another skill Ramsey thinks everyone should have).

I’m also a darned good cook – which has a lot to do with the fact that I love to eat. And I’ve learned how to make tasty food that’s reasonably healthy, but more to the point, how to get it onto the table with a minimum of fuss and mess. I’ve had to deal with the picky eater, being tired to the bone and too broke to afford delivery, waltzing into the kitchen to make dinner and realizing I forgot to take the chicken breasts out of the freezer again. I get it. You’ve got something on the stove that’s just about done and that’s when the kids decide to start throwing blocks at each other, you have to deal with that right then, but then what you were cooking ends up the color and consistency of a hockey puck. That sort of thing is very discouraging.

Which is why I’m here to help. You can boil water. More to the point, I’ll let you know when you need to and when it’s a waste of time and energy. You can eat healthy meals made from scratch that don’t contribute to global warming and labor injustice, and still have some money in your bank account afterwards. And some time to sit down with the people you care about and relax. I’m here and I will lead you through The Dark Side of the Fridge.

Anne Louise Bannon

2 Comments

  1. I L-O-V-E love to cook. On a day, to day, basis, no meal takes more than a half hour. I love opening the fridge and figuring out what I’ll make with what I’ve got. First time through, I follow a recipe. After than, improvisation is the name of the game. On the down-side, Loved-One likes my cooking so much, he hates to eat out.

    Now, if I could just find someone who is willing to clean in exchange for cooking! No that’d be the berries. (I like things clean, but I hate to do it.)

    • Yeah, clean up is the worst. Maybe you’ll have some tips for us. Or I’ll have a clean up tip for you. Looking forward to the discussion

Leave a Reply to oncealittlegirl Cancel reply