Start simple. Anybody can do it. There is no cooking technique that you can’t acquire with enough time and patience. Take one dish at a time. Commit to mastering that dish before you move on. Make it in single servings every night for a week. Learn what ingredients create the backbone flavor of the recipe, and which contribute to texture. Figure out what’s necessary, and what’s superfluous. Make mistakes. Over-season and undercook.
Play around with different spices. Try a dash of basil and chop big chunks of garlic. Discover that dry vermouth can substitute for white wine in a pinch. Realize you prefer it. Try to make a sauce from scratch. Decide the end result isn’t worth the effort. Experiment with store-bought sauces and your own seasonings. Notice that grocery store brand barbeque sauce with Liquid Smoke and cayenne pepper tastes better than any name brand you’ve ever tasted. Wonder how you ever ate chili without adding a heaping spoonful of powdered chocolate to the pot.
Research every trick to tenderize and season a steak. Finally make a cheap cut of meat taste good. Spend the next week and a half eating red beans and rice, then blow your saved up food budget on one great cut of steak. Apply every skill you acquired during the cheap meat practice, and eat the best steak of your life.
Know what goes into almost every bite that enters your body. Stop going out to restaurants, except for the occasional dinner with friends. Even then, order something you’ve never had before and take notes. Ask the waitress obnoxious questions about the preparation, to which she doesn’t know the answer and will have to ask the chef. Try to imitate it when you get home. Try to improve it.
Start cooking to music. Play John Mellencamp when you’re doing it with friends. Play Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra when you’re alone. Turn the stereo loud enough that you can hear it over the sound of sautéing onions. Sing along. Wear an apron that makes you chuckle every time you put it on, and dance to the music when you go to grab something from the fridge. Feel like an idiot when you spill red wine on the floor. Keep doing it anyway, with a new respect for keeping your glass level.
Start a relationship with your kitchen. Start a relationship in your kitchen. Cook dinner for someone you’ve only known a few weeks. Eat in the dining room, but somehow end up spending most of the night sitting on the kitchen floor talking.
Develop a strong opinion concerning electric vs. gas stoves. Recognize that cooking on electric is industrial, while cooking with a flame is life and passion. Regret never fully appreciating your parents’ gas stove when you had access to it growing up. Go home and cook on it now. Swear to never cook on electric again once you buy your own house. Agree with your dad about certain foods to never order out, because too many restaurants have broken your heart with an awful rendition of a dish you love. Lovingly acknowledge the restaurants that make a dish you’ve never managed to imitate.
Cook the same dish enough times with your siblings, until you turn around one day and they automatically hand you an ingredient you were just about to ask for. Dream about reaching that point in a relationship with the right person. Think back on all the family memories that happened around cooking. Recall your parents cooking together, and tipsy holidays with cousins and grandparents. Realize that your dream person belongs in the kitchen, because you belong in the kitchen, too. It’s where your family life has always happened. Is it chauvinistic to say that it’s a woman’s proper place, when it’s also a man’s proper place? When it’s everyone’s proper place?
Take mental notes every time you walk into a new kitchen. Grow jealous of people with 6-burner ranges and two ovens. Observe the importance of layout, of island placement and flow. See how this island cramps multiple cooks into the same area. Notice how another naturally encourages them to spread out, and leaves room to walk around. Incorporate the good ideas into your dream kitchen.
Research how much your dream kitchen costs. Do a double-take. Sigh, and start putting aside money for it now. But in the meantime, you have your own skills. And that is more than enough.
Title Photo Credit: flickr
Originally published by Thought Catalog
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