I take cooking and baking for granted. I’ve been doing this for so long, that I usually don’t use recipes and I write many of my own recipes or usually just throw things together without thinking about it. But, how did I get to this place? Was I a natural in the kitchen?
Sort of but most importantly, I was blessed with an encouraging family. My grandmother taught me how to bake cookies but when it came to actually cooking a meal, it was a lot of trial and error. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years. At the tender age of 14, I decided to bake my first loaf of bread - a French baguette using Julia Child’s recipe. You know, why not start at the top? Well, it was my first foray into baking yeast bread and it turned out like a baseball bat. A baguette bat, so-to-speak.
Over the years, I practiced and learned. I went to culinary school. Practiced and learned some more. Worked in kitchens. Kept practicing and learning. And now here I am, a confident chef. But… still practicing and learning.
Some things are easier to master than others, but you have to start somewhere. If you find cooking (or baking) intimidating, start small. Find an easy recipe and master it. Then, move on to another recipe and master that one. As you grow comfortable working in the kitchen, the easier it gets and the more confidence you will gain.
You don’t have to be a “natural” for this whole cooking thing. Sure, some people are blessed with a natural ability to throw food together and create amazing meals. However, when it comes down to it, cooking is a skill. You need to master a few skills and then you can make nearly anything. You may need someone to show you the proper way to chop an onion, but you can get started on your own by experimenting with recipes.
One of the most important things to do when you start cooking, is to remember to season your food. You need to train yourself to season food (and taste it) as it cooks, so you understand how flavors work together. Salt and pepper are your friends, so use them wisely. Utilizing proper seasoning techniques will help develop your palate and make you a better cook.
The last thing I will say is to have fun with cooking. It should not be treated as a chore. Think of it as a way to connect with the food that is providing you nourishment. You are turning a simple recipe, like leek and potato soup, into a delicious and healthy meal that didn't break the bank or take all day to prepare. The reason we are fascinated by celebrity chefs and cooking shows is that they transform simple ingredients into amazing meals (or so we think). There is no reason you cannot do the same thing in your kitchen.
This blog offers many basic recipes -- from pie to roasting chicken. Over the next few months, I will provide even more “basic” recipes, tips, and skills for you to master.
Lentils: Pantry Gems by Marcy Gaston