This may sound funny but I used to believe I could cook. Until, well, I cooked. Cooking is an art. Pulling stuff out of boxes and re-heating them or nuking them in the microwave is about as close to cooking as your morning commute is to the Daytona 500. You may think you’re all that, but when you’re seated next to someone who can don’t be surprised when you’re spinning through the infield grass upside down trying to find the right witty Ricky Bobby zinger.
There are a million things I’ve learned. I’ve forgotten all of them but six, so no doubt the other 999,994 will come back to haunt me until it is time to do an other more extensive list. No worries, I ‘ve got time. And the world loves nothing better than witnessing the screw-ups of others.
6) There is no shame in admitting that what you’ve made sucks
Sure, Thomas Edison did say “I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.”
However, Edison wasn’t eating his inventions. And while it might speak of tenacity and passion when trying again and again while inventing something, eating something disgusting isn’t. The failures go in the trash. You don’t have to sit there, forcing in down to prove to your family that their taste buds are defective and feign surprise and disdain when they cannot understand how delicious your creation really is. And you can slough it off by suggesting they’ve got an uncultured palate. Believe me. You can win them back with your next great creation.
Or if all else fails, just steal the inventions of other people like Edison did and claim them as your own.
5) Directions matter
This I imagine is aimed largely at the guys. Because, well, we’re guys. We are the ones that, on Christmas Eve, open up all the toys that need assembling, toss aside the instruction manual and dive in with screwdriver and pliers and clenched jaw. An hour later, after much swearing and having lost any holiday sanity which might’ve remained, and with a My Little Pony bicycle that more favors a shopping cart or a wheeled pogo stick, we are left with two options. Either admitting defeat and blaming it on those little prepackaged wrenches that come with every toy or diving back into the trash in search of the instruction manual. There is a reason that recipes exist. Failure to follow these hardly ever turns out well.
4) Simple is better
You cannot truly appreciate that simplicity is a wonderful thing until you’ve spent hours and hours in far over your head and the result is a destroyed dish that tastes nothing like the photo in the book led you to believe it would. I do something very technical for a living. It took years for me to perfect it. However, it also has led me to believe that I can do almost anything, and I can, with practice and the right tools and training. It is those three key things that I forget. There is a reason Gordon Ramsay and his contemporaries make it look so easy. Because he has done it for years. Skill and ability in one area doesn’t translate perfectly to the same in another area. You may be a rocket scientist. That doesn’t mean that you’re a great cook too. There are tricks and secrets and techniques that sound easy on paper and when watching your favorite cooking show. They aren’t. Keep it simple. Try new things, sure, but as with most things, it takes time to perfect the art of cooking. And make no mistake, it is an art. Once you’ve mastered the simple then you can graduate to the more elaborate.
4b) Make Lists
Just a pointer before you head to the store. Nothing is as aggravating as getting home to make veal piccata and realizing you forgot the some of the key ingredients like the veal. Or the piccata.
3) Make it Fun
Every meal is not a cooking competition. Some are going to turn out butt ugly but delicious. And any blogger that cooks and shares their creations knows that crestfallen feeling when something turns out totally unlike what they imagined. Especially if it tasted wonderful. That’s always quite a conundrum isn’t it? You cooked all morning for your big post, and your cupcakes come out all lopsided and lumpy. What do you do, hotshot? What DO you do?
Heaven knows there is enough seriousness in the world. Just roll with it. Have some fun. Make light of it and post it anyways. Give the rest of the world the confidence they need by showing that you screw up too. It’s a learning process. And the worst that could happen is losing some food. Well……………that isn’t entirely true.
2) Wash your hands after cutting peppers or wear gloves
This is especially true for those male cooks out there. Why? Because if you don’t wash them directly after, like me. And you have to run to the bathroom, like me. And then wash your hands afterwards of course, like me, you’ll feel good about yourself, since you’ve obeyed sanitation laws and the unwritten code of domestic hygiene. However, in about ten minutes you’ll notice a tingle, then a burn. Then, as you shuffle back and forth trying not to make your discomfort obvious (impossible) and your significant other silently pages through the phone book searching for the nearest STD testing facility you’ll realize your mistake. I don’t feel the need to be very obvious or blatant about whatever I am talking about because every man reading this now is wincing. It hurts. Don’t do it. You’re welcome. This was with jalapeno. Now, what happens if you forget this with Habanero or ,God forbid, ghost peppers or something else (if you’re dumb enough to be slicing them without gloves anyways)?
1) Don’t Get Cocky –
This kind of falls under the simple category but then again, this bears repeating in some ways. Anyone can make food. Not everyone can make food delicious. There is a difference between being able to cook hamburgers and cooking a delicious filet mignon. Ask most anyone if they can cook and they’ll say, yes! But I am one of those that considers whipping up a batch of Hamburger Helper, well, NOT cooking. Do not point this out to your wife/husband/significant other as they are doing it because grease burns take a long time to heal.
I had this happen a couple of times. The getting cocky part, not the grease burns. I’m always phone in my food insults. No burns for me!
Side note: Cleaning Rice-A- Roni out of your underwear drawer is no fun!
Anyway, don’t think because you’ve mastered your first baked peppers that you’re ready to cook a 19 course Thanksgiving feast. It isn’t going to turn out like you planned. Cooking is a delicate ballet of precision, patience, time management, and planning. Don’t try to tango before you can cabbage patch my friend.