A Letter to People Who Think They Can’t Cook

Dear People Who Say They Cannot Cook,

I Kindly Ask That You Reconsider Your Position.

Why? Because cooking is not magic. If you can follow instructions, you can cook.

Also, you probably have tastebuds that work. If so, you can cook.

And you have a stomach, I hope. I assume that means you get hungry sometimes? Yes? Good. You can cook.

Cooking is no more than following instructions, except in gastronomy (in other words, the study of food and culture) it’s called a “recipe.” Therein lies the only difference.


How To Begin?

I suggest you start with a simple food that you love very much. So: macaroni and cheese. A dressed salad. Pancakes. Beginning with a very involved dish (lemon meringue pie, for example, or baklava) might get you discouraged if it doesn’t turn out.

There are plenty of places to find recipes. Cookbooks, for one. Go to a library or bookstore, find the cookbook section and start paging through them. If you find something that strikes your fancy, carefully read the recipe. If it still sounds good, get the book…or be cheap and copy down the recipe. You could look for recipes online; you don’t even have to leave your chair. A few of our favorite sources are: Green Kitchen Sources, My New Roots, Sprouted Kitchen, Smitten Kitchen, The Kitchn. Maybe try something that doesn’t really require a recipe. Like roasting vegetables (a la Tamar Adler, perhaps?).

If this is your first time around, follow the recipe as best you can. If it doesn’t work out, try again or find another recipe. Gather your ingredients — I suggest you put them all on the counter before you commence cooking and then put them away one by one as you add them. Go through the recipe in order, but understand that the recipe is not perfect.

Buy good salt. It makes a difference. Salt enhances the flavor of foods (I’m sure Tim can tell you the science of this; I just accept that it works and add salt to everything, even smoothies and other sweet things). Want to learn more? Read here.

Follow the recipe but be an active participant in the cooking process. Smell the food before you begin to cook — get an idea of the flavors you’ll be working with. Touch it. Taste it as you go. And listen — listen for the sounds things make when they hit the hot skillet, how they sizzle, the vigor with which things bubble when cooking, etc. and so forth.


Why Begin At All?

There are plenty of good reasons. My favorites? When you cook, you know what you’re eating. That sounds like a good thing to me. It’s rewarding too. And don’t you think it’s empowering to be able to feed yourself? Eating is one of the simplest, most necessary things you do.

Then when you learn how to provide meals for yourself (and if you try, you most certainly will), you can feed other people. And you can teach other people. And they can teach other people. And then we won’t have so many people on this earth who think they cannot cook — because it’s not true. You can.

Yours truly,

Ema

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