People often say, “I love eating, but I hate cooking!” It is quite possible to cook and have a good time while doing it, too.
A Little Background History
Perhaps one might say I am somewhat biased in writing this article because I downright love cooking. Yes, I do subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, even though they probably assume (incorrectly) that I am a woman, and I do watch cooking shows. I cook, and not just when I am personally hungry and need something to eat. While I am cooking, I am having a good time. I do not find it to be a tedious process, nor do I dislike the process of cleaning up after the food is all done. Cooking is good.
When I was younger, I used to experiment a lot in the kitchen. This perhaps stemmed from when I would help my mother and grandmother with various kitchen work, such as cleaning vegetables, preparing other ingredients, helping make shapes out of dough, and any other thing they might have wanted. I wanted to see what would happen if I would put together ingredients in the way that I saw fit, to try to make my own food. I would stir fry some spaghetti with spices I had never even heard of, let alone, tasted. Sometimes, but not often, something relatively tasty would come out of these bizarre experiments. Nevertheless, it was those few times that I managed to make something good that encouraged me to try again and again. Each time I learned something new about what spices went well with what foods, how long certain things need to cook, and why certain foods should never be put in the microwave, amongst other things.
Cooking by Recipe
The next step for me was learning to cook by recipe, step by step. In doing this, I inverted the way in which I believe most people learn about how to cook. For the most part, one starts by following recipes and then improvising on them. I suggest that if you are interested in learning how to enjoy cooking, you might want to start here. Of course there are recipes that are more complex than others, and it is advisable to stick to those things that are more simple and have fewer ingredients to start with. Moreover, the ingredients should be less complex to start with, less sensitive to being burned, overcooked, or undercooked.
A recipe consists of two things: A list of ingredients you will need and a step by step guide to putting these ingredients together to make something useful. I personally believe the French technique of ingredient preparation works the best in terms of effective cooking, and so I will suggest you use it. Before you begin going through the steps, look at your little list of ingredients. Make sure you have every ingredient before you start taking things out lest you take out almost everything and suddenly realize you don’t have any eggs or squash. Put them all out in front of you in the quantities specified in the recipe. More specifically, separate them out into small bowls. If you save the plastic soup containers you get every time you do take-out at a restaurant, you can use those. Use smaller bowls for smaller quantities, and plates for larger items which are not in liquid form.
Once you have all of the ingredients, you can start cooking. The cooking process will be a lot faster, and you are going to be less likely to burn your food while cooking it if you have it ready to use. This is because people often let things cook for the appropriate amount of time, only to realize that they need a certain ingredient and they don’t know where it is. Step by step, go through the ingredients, making sure to pay attention to the timing of everything. If you don’t have some sort of a timer or stopwatch or similar mechanism which will keep track of time for you, you might want to invest a few dollars and get one. They’re relatively easy to locate at garage sales. It’s worth it.
Cooking with Others
One of the best ways to enjoy cooking is to involve other people in the process. One person can be preparing ingredients while another is involved in the main part, mixing things together, baking, frying, etc. You can pass the time while doing seemingly tedious things by talking to the other person or people. Cooking is terrific fun as a group activity. Best of all, when the activity is all done and over with, you’ll have something good to eat. Cleaning up afterwards, of course, is considerably faster if more than one person is involved in doing it.
Thoughts on Attitude
Before you start cooking, ask yourself why it is that you are cooking? What is cooking to you? If you think of it as a task to be completed, chances are you aren’t going to really enjoy it at all. If, on the other hand, you look at it as a chance to relax a little (after being in the office eight hours a day, cooking can be quite a stress reliever I found out one summer) then you are much more likely to have a good time while doing it. You should also ask yourself for whom you are cooking. Are you cooking for just yourself, or for other people as well? I find myself enjoying the cooking process a lot more when I know that there are going to be people other than myself who will reap the benefits of the cooking.
Food does not have to come out of the frozen section, from a restaurant, or even from an establishment which claims to have food but usually ends up offering large amounts of fat and cholesterol disguised as a meal. You can make food at home, and beyond it being good, you can enjoy making it as well. There are plenty of books for beginner cooks. Tastier food awaits you.