I’m going out on a limb here and stating: Cooking is not rocket science. Rather, cooking is a skill that most people can learn.
I hear the groans out there as you read this. I hear the excuses everyone makes. Most people want convenience and want food served quickly. Your lives are busy. That’s why you opt for ready-made meals, fast-food, or take-out. I get it. To you, cooking (and shopping for food) takes time. It does. I fully admit that. But why does one person in the house have to do all the cooking and shopping (and kitchen clean up)? I think it’s time for the family to pitch in and help out. I also hear the excuse that cooking is hard and it’s easy for me because I’m a chef. Ok, granted I have the experience and expertise to make a good meal fast but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to hone your cooking skills and learn some tricks of the trade.
I might be a chef, but I’m not a pioneer. I don’t use fancy cooking techniques or ingredients. You won’t see foams or mousselines in my kitchen. In fact, I steer away from ingredients that are hard to find. At this point, I don’t need to use trendy or exotic ingredients to make good food. It just isn’t necessary.
My main secret to cooking is simple. I use real food. What is real food? Food that is minimally processed. Specifically:
Take for instance, the decadent dessert, creme brûlée. This old-school dessert resonates with so many because it is deeply satisfying. It is slightly sweet, creamy, and is topped with a crunchy burnt sugar crust. The best part of it is the ingredient list: egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and cream. See? Simple ingredients.
Then there’s my favorite meal of Roast Chicken. Why? Because it is simple and fills my home with lovely aromas. I make a rub with lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil that gets spread on the meat under the skin and all over the outside of the chicken. Rosemary stems and quartered lemons are stuffed into the cavity. Then it gets baked until done. That’s it. Simple meal.
What to serve with that roast chicken? Your vegetable of choice —either sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and a touch of red pepper flakes or roasted in the oven with the same ingredients. You can vary it up by adding different spices or herbs (rosemary with potatoes, allspice on carrots), but that’s up to you. I’m telling you — do not make it hard.
We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that processed food equals tasty. Or that processed food equals easy. Is it really easier? Is it really tastier than a meal made with real food? To me, highly processed food equals poor health. For instance, to make low-fat or fat-free foods taste good, manufacturers add salt and sugar or other additives to make it taste better. The more ingredients on the label, the more processed it is and the furtherest it is from nature. And quite honestly the worst it tastes.
Simple ingredients equals delicious meals. It’s time to stop watching the Food Network competition shows and actually step into the kitchen. You can make a simple pesto pasta in under 20 minutes. And that includes making the pesto at home (as opposed to store-bought).
Not convinced yet? Ok. Let’s look at cultures who have the most centenarians (people who live to be 100) — Okinawans, Costa Ricans, and Italians. What do they eat? Simple. Real. Food. Their cuisines vary but share a lot of similarities — a plethora of fruits and vegetables, seafood as often as possible, some meat and poultry, and healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, full-fat dairy). What they don’t eat? Processed food. They take time to cook simple meals. Hear that? They take the time to cook and enjoy food.
Because food should be honored and enjoyed.
So, I challenge everyone to learn how to cook and appreciate the joy of simple food. Forget complicated recipes with many steps and a list of ingredients only found in specialty shops.
It’s time to learn how to cook and eat again. And appreciate what good, simple food should taste like.