How to Conquer a Fear of Cooking
Unleash Your Inner Chef
I love to cook. I feel that it is my one creative outlet as I possess limited artistic talents in other areas. I get great satisfaction out of composing a dish from random pantry ingredients that we happen to have on hand. I love the way that food touches all of the senses: the glorious smell of sautéing peppers and onions; the sound of bacon saying “Good Morning” as it sizzles in the pan; the beautiful reds, greens, and yellows of a bunch of bell peppers; the cool creaminess of fresh Mozzarella as I take a bite of Caprese Salad; the taste of curry on the tongue which fills me with warmth on a cold day. My mother allowed me to help in the kitchen when I was young so I began to feel comfortable in the kitchen from a relatively early age. With a little practice and perseverance, I believe that anyone can unleash their inner chef and feel the satisfaction of seeing their loved ones enjoy one of their culinary creations.
The first step in conquering a fear of cooking is to get in the kitchen and start cooking. Any skill, whether painting, changing a tire, or throwing a fastball, takes practice. Cooking is no different. You don’t have to start by making a five course gourmet meal. You don’t even have to cook every night. Just start by getting in the kitchen and making something—even if it is just a grilled cheese sandwich.
Learning the Rules
Once you resolve to enter the kitchen for more than grabbing a fork with which to eat takeout, begin by following recipes. I believe many novice cooks become discouraged when their crazy culinary experiments go awry. I think of cooking as being similar to great jazz. Jazz musicians are able to improvise on the spot in ways that fly in the face of traditional rules of music; however, before they can “break the rules” they have to “know the rules”. The same is true with cooking. You need to know which ingredients play well with one another and what role an ingredient plays in a recipe before you can start improvising. “How do I learn the rules?” you ask. Well, let’s proceed to the next step.
Learning from Others
Read cookbooks. You will begin to see certain flavor combinations repeated over and over. You will soon learn that lemon and thyme love to combine with chicken and that you should look to herbs like basil, oregano, and rosemary if you want to create something with an Italian flair. Start simple. I would not suggest starting with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. While it may be a masterpiece, it would likely leave you feeling overwhelmed. Start with a simple cookbook where the recipes call for a relatively few, easy to find ingredients. A crockpot cookbook can be a good choice for the beginner. The recipes are normally very basic and the technique is very forgiving thereby increasing the chances for success.
Watch cooking shows. They can be a great source of information and inspiration. Pay close attention to how the chef puts the dish together. How are the vegetables chopped? In what order are the ingredients added? Also, pay attention to tips that the chef may offer.
Talk with the great cooks in your life. If Mom makes the world’s best Chicken Caccitore, learn from her. Most mothers and grandmothers would be proud that you want to learn their special dish. Not only can you become a better cook, but you can build some cherished family memories in the process.
Become a Culinary Student
Become a culinary student. Now, I don’t mean you have to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu. I mean seek out new food experiences. Try new types of cuisines. Pay attention to food parings and how things are put together. If you do want something a little more formal, you can search your community for cooking classes. I live in a very small town and our community college even offers various cooking classes as part of the curriculum for a nominal fee.
Mistakes will Happen
Finally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes—they will happen. The key is to learn from them and try to fix them the next go-around. Before long you will have a good understanding of the basics and will be able to adapt and create recipes with confidence. Above all—have fun!
© 2015 Vicki Holder