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What's Cooking?: Cooking 101

Have you ever felt you were all “butterfingers” in the kitchen (excuse the pun)?  Is preparing a meal for yourself or others more intimidating than skydiving or bungee jumping?  Recently I watched a program The Worst Cooks in America on Food Network.   This series shows the learning progression of contestants who were selected as the worst cooks.  They were taught how to cook by two professional chefs in the show.  As competent as they were in their own professions, they were lost souls in the kitchen.   A professional ballet dancer who performs before thousands of people was terrified behind a stove.  An interior designer had a fear of knives.  A doctor was dismissed at the second show.  I must admit it was hard to watch.  At the last show, it was impressive to see the two finalists, who started out as bumbling fools, battle to become the best cook from this competition, preparing an exquisite 3-course meal judged by elite chefs.  Kudos to them!

If you have ever felt insecure like these contestants, there is help.  It can be a daunting task to learn how to cook.  The best way is to learn from watching others who know how as I did from my father for everyday cooking and my mother for holiday pastries.  Since we never used the oven for baking sweets, my girlfriend taught me to bake.  You can imagine how elated I was to know I could bake cookies from scratch at the age of 12.  I thought I could only get them from the store or bakery.  The rest of my education came from reading cookbooks and trying out recipes.  Of course learning always involves mistakes so continue to practice.  Actually, some of the mistakes were quite delicious.

Here are a few tips to introduce you to this kaleidoscope of culinary knowledge. Start with books that bring you back to the basics which include simple recipes, some of which can be written for children and young adults, particularly for use while in college.  Simple does not necessarily indicate boring or bland.  Always seek out fresh ingredients which will provide optimum flavor.  These “back to basics” cookbooks will also show you how to choose and use cooking equipment.  The quick and fast cooking in 15-30 minutes cookbooks, along with the less ingredient cookbooks (3-5 ingredients) are good starters because you will not be so overwhelmed with so many ingredients and techniques in one recipe.  The cookbooks I find most helpful are the ones that provide pictorial step-by-step instructions.   Following the cooking process through pictures reassures you are doing it properly.  Finally there are DVDs that are helpful to watch if you do not have a cooking mentor.  Let’s not forget the excellent resources online especially the “how to” on YouTube that will help you succeed so that you will not be called the worst cook.  Bon Appetit!


How to Cook Everything the Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food by Mark Bittman

Teen Cook by Meghan Carle, Jill Carle and Judi Carle

College Cooking by Meghan Carle, Jill Carle and Judi Carle

Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond*

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten

Kids’ Kitchen: Good Food Made Easy by Amanda Grant

Cooking Basics for Dummies by Bryan Miller, Marie Rama and Eve Adamson

Rachael Ray’s 30 Minutes Meals by Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook by Rachael Ray*

5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes by Claire Robinson

Fast & Fabulous:  Delicious Meals without the Wait by Time Inc. Home Entertainment

*pictorial step-by-step

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