I was so blown away by this comment on a recent blog post that I decided to make sure it didn’t get lost. It is a must read as far as I am concerned, in terms of teaching yourself to cook, and taking care of yourself… My only complaint is that I would disagree that this reader says her cooking skills are nothing special! I repost with permission, and gratitude as I head off to the Mall of America for some Spring Break fun before a few hours work this afternoon! (M has been begging for Build a Bear for a year, so this will be our entertainment, followed by lunch at her favorite Chinese buffet. She’s been more excited about the Bear than her recent cruise with her grandparents, so I’m going to enjoy it, even if we could use another stuffed animal like a hole in the head…)
Readers, how did you learn/teach yourself to cook?
“… I am neither a confident nor a talented cook (I’m a strict recipe follower), and I’m not a foodie either – not particularly adventurous, food is fuel more than anything else, etc. (I’m not saying that’s better than any other approach, just the way I’m wired and always have been). My dinner-cooking and ability to provide edible food for myself turned a corner when I mastered about half a dozen simple meals in the kitchen, and now I can do at least half a dozen variations on each of them… They are:
– a simple red or green curry with two main ingredients (tofu & broccoli, pumpkin & chickpea, etc).
– a stir-fry (teriyaki, peanut satay, oyster sauce, etc etc, with different greens)
– a stuffed baked potato or sweet potato
– a quinoa salad, with various pairings (a Greek version, a Japanese version, etc)
– a simple vegetable soup (can do pumpkin/carrot/sweet potato/pea/etc)
– a Mexican bowl (basically nachos/tacos/etc ingredients on rice and beans rather than chips or shells)
All of these things are cost effective (and guaranteed to work) and vegetarian. It sounds like quite a bit, and sure it took time to learn each of those skills, but I genuinely do only know how to cook six things (and then variations on each one). I’m perfectly satisfied with the amount of variety I get, and I can now cook each of those things fairly quickly. And they taste really good!! It’s so much more successful than when every night was Russian Roulette – trying a salad I’d never made before, trying to do homemade pizzas one night and pasta sauce the next… It was so stressful, and I really couldn’t afford (timewise or financially… I’m a young journalist, so I get paid like crap) to have any mishaps (which I frequently did). I try and ensure I get all my nutritional needs by being adventurous with my grains/legumes/veggies/meat-free proteins that accompany each dish – but that’s only taking a gamble on one ingredient, and I know I’ll get the sauce right.
Now that being in the kitchen every night doesn’t end in stress and tears (and I don’t even have kids, that’s just me!! Lol), I feel less pressured when I am actually trying something new… My current things I’m working on (to take the list up to 8!) are risotto and lentil stew (again, quite flexible dishes). But I know I can try them once a week, end up eating toast, and still get it right the other days. The other thing that has helped has been containing my experimentation and learning new skills to baking/sweet treats. It’s OK if I mess up the cupcakes, because they’re not essential to my nutrition, and I only buy ingredients for sweets if I can afford them (knowing they don’t form part of my core nutrition, and that nothing might come of them). It’s so much less stressful to balls up a cake than your dinner.
I know this probably sounds a bit pathetic (also, long!!) but just wanted to reiterate that there are people out there who really have struggled in this situation. I grew up poor and in a single parent family (father only), so lived on pot noodles, toast, chicken nuggets, etc, and was never taught to cook (no classes at school either). So I only started myself at 18, and it’s taken me til my 20s to get to the level of confidence/proficiency I’m at now (still not great I know, but I’m happy enough). I don’t even remember how I realized that learning a few things and then swapping the ingredients around was the way to go… Maybe it was dating a guy who cooked green curry about 4 times a week, haha.”