Adding Some Tools to Your Tool Belt

“Do you think I’d like cooking more if I just knew how? Or am I doomed to hate it forever.” Laura had always touted that she, “doesn’t cook” or “has no idea what to do in the kitchen.” (I would argue that this isn’t quite accurate about her but that’s a different story.) I encouraged her; “you would definitely like cooking more if you have more skills!” It’s true, you don’t need to go to a Paris culinary school, but isn’t anything more enjoyable when you have just a little bit of know-how?

Unless one of two things is true, you won’t be pulled back into any activity: either you are fairly adept and have confidence in your skills, or you have the drive to get better in the hopes that you’ll enjoy it. Countless people tell me “oh I’m a terrible cook” or “all I can make is scrambled eggs.” Or even “I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook!” as if there’s something standing in the way of them and the stove. I’ll admit, not all of us are born with the desire to learn, but what makes cooking so special is that it’s tied to our innate need to feed ourselves and is wrapped up in family and tradition and hospitality. What better way to enjoy what we eat than to enjoy the process of creating it?

Cooking, just like any sport or craft, takes a little practice and dedication. But unlike most other hobbies, cooking really only requires a little familiarity to propel you into creating a practice of your own. Start small, acquire a base of knowledge and be okay with messing up, in fact, be prepared to mess up. Best-case scenario, you’ll end up with something delightful to eat or share with others. At the very least you’ll learn what not to do the next time, which usually benefits you more than a kitchen success. We learn by messing up, putting our boots (or our aprons) back on, and trying again.

When it comes to food, we learn by doing, not simply by reading. Yes cookbooks and blogs are great for inspiration, if you saw my bookshelf you’d certainly trust that I know this, but reading can only take you so far with a purely hands-on activity. My hunch is that Picasso didn’t become a renowned artist by reading about art, or that Michael Jordan didn’t become a star basketball player by watching sports shows. No, we learn by doing.

Go to the market for inspiration, pick up a new food, smell, touch, and taste, and try something new. Set realistic but hopeful expectations, be ready to mess up from time to time-that’s part of the fun! Once, I made banana bread three times and created three banana-flavored bricks before I realized I was using the wrong kind of flour. Was it an expensive laugh? Sure. But you better believe I never made that mistake again. What’s more, I now know what each of those flours does in banana bread. I’ve seen the texture, tasted the flavor, felt the weight and know from firsthand experience.

If you have an inkling of desire, consider yourself equipped. If you’re sick of creating, serving, or eating the same five dishes over and over, you have fuel for the fire. All you need now is to set aside a little time, some genuine expectations and prepare to be changed. For its true that, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

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