make your stomach happy 

a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation


editor's note

o lounge
o nourish
o host


submit your ideas


got some great recipes for beginner cooks?  don't be a wallflower!  speak up!
jump to the discussion boards and share your ideas, opinions, questions, etc.

other recent NOURISH articles:
o the Myth of the Bad Cook
o feeling saucy? 

o 12 Kitchen Timesavers that don't sacrifice taste
o Making Maki Sushi
a basic guide to perfect rolled sushi
o Technically Speaking
a glossary of basic cooking methods

copyright ©1999-2000

the myth of the BAD cook |  1 2 3
continued from page 1

If thus far in life, you’ve thought of the kitchen as that room in your house where you store your cereal collection and make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that provide your daily sustenance, overcoming the fear of cooking real food can be a big mental obstacle to overcome. Confront your fear directly: The best – and really the only – way to learn how to cook is very simple. You just start cooking. And then you keep doing it, often. Anyone can cook. And since I know few people who would say they’d prefer eating poorly to eating well, I’m a firm believer in the idea that everyone should. Making that decision to start cooking is, in many ways, the hardest step.

Where, then, to begin once you’ve seem the light? When, at the age of 21 and living in my own (non-college dorm) apartment for the first time, I finally decided that I would have to learn how to cook, the first thing I did was to ask the best home-cook I knew, that being my mom, to share her wisdom and advice. At first, I’d call her up asking for my favorite childhood recipes – curry chicken, Ma Po tofu, beef noodle soup, pork dumplings, scallion pancakes. Like most experienced cooks, however, she no longer relies on written-down measurements or directions when she’s preparing meals. She’d e-mail me lists of ingredients, never specifying exact quantities, then write instructions along the oh-so-helpful lines of "Add enough to give it flavor" and "Cook until done." Since the precise recipes were clearly locked away somewhere in her subconscious, the only way for me to learn how to cook these foods was to watch her while she cooked, and to take notes and ask questions as she went along. I not only managed to derive fairly specific ingredients lists and step-by-step cooking directions for her recipes, I also learned a lot about simple cooking techniques. Even if you don’t have a mom who can share her culinary secrets with you, chances are good that you know someone – a relative, a friend – who’s a great cook and who would be more than happy to introduce you to the art of whipping up a good home-cooked meal.

The advantage of collecting recipes from those you know and love is that you’re already familiar with how the end results are supposed to turn out. Don’t become discouraged if your first few attempts yield dishes that don’t taste quite the same as they did when Mom made them. Trust yourself: you’ll know when something tastes right, and the cures to the most common problems -- too bland, add salt and pepper; too salty, add a little water or sugar; overcooked … well in that case there’s not much you can do, but at least you’ll know that next time, you should reduce the cooking time – are really very simple. Forget about your perfectionist predilections, it’s an impossible goal anyway, and it’ll only prevent you from expanding your repertoire. You learn as much from the mistakes as you do from the successes – you have to give yourself the freedom to experiment. I’ve said it once and I’ll tell you again: the only way to learn how to cook well is by actually cooking, and often.

walk this way ... there's so much more!

---------------------------> lounge . nourish . host . laze . home.