Is the art of cooking dying? From the looks of the fast food landscape, the frozen dinner section and the heat and serve options in the super markets, one would think so. Given the fact that everyone needs to eat, one would think everyone would learn to cook but such is not the case and it is taking it’s toll. Are you sick and tired of fast food? Maybe you are sick and tired of being, sick and tired. It is time to make a change.
The reality is many people have never learned to cook, as evidenced by the success of the fast food industry and the freezer cases overflowing with heat and serve meals. People have learned to re-heat, to open a package or a jar and drive-through, but somewhere between hunting and gathering and the 21st Century, the art of cooking is being lost and with it goes our health and the health and eating habits of our children.
I learned to cook by watching and doing. What was once learned in the kitchen watching Mom or Auntie whip up dinner is now learned by watching cooking videos and step by step cooking blogs. The Pioneer Woman was the first step by step blog I remember seeing. Clearly, her fabulous photography helped but I think her real success came from actually showing people even the most basic techniques. (Season the Chicken. See, this is what it looks like.) Chef John has a wonderful collection of cooking videos. The food and techniques are the stars of his show, besides his fabulous sense of humor, his focus is strictly on the food. What is usually missing from videos or picture perfect step by step blogs are the mistakes. Even the most experienced cooks make mistakes. I know I have had my fair share of ‘lessons learned’. Actually, I learned a great deal about cooking (or rather how NOT to cook) from watching some of my father’s ill fated attempts in the kitchen. Thanks to my father, I know how to NOT cook salmon. I also learned at an early age to not put hot broth into a non tempered cut glass bowl. The resulting explosion left a lasting impression!
When working on recipe development I am always caught in a quandary. Too many ingredients, too few ingredients, too detailed instructions, not detailed enough. When I first started writing recipes I tended to not be detailed enough and people had a ton of questions. Now I find myself becoming too detailed, which makes a simple recipe appear difficult and scares people away. It is a challenge to find a happy medium.
What I see lacking in budding American cooks is lack of basic cooking common sense. I say American, because if you look at the recipes on the International sites they are much different. Most of the recipes are simply written and the use of processed ingredients is rare. When I was learning to cook, the goal was to be able to cook without a recipe. To be able to forage in the refrigerator and pantry and produce a meal. A recipe was a guideline, something to be used for inspiration. There were certain things that were just assumed. If the recipe called for a roux, it didn’t tell you how to make the roux, how to add the liquid, how to stir. Those things were givens. This is the art of cooking.
I know we are busy, everyone is busy. The other thing I know is that people make time for things that are important to them. Having a food plan in place is essential. I have found we waste more time thinking about what to cook, than we actually spend cooking.
Here is your challenge.
If you are someone who is already a good cook, who are you going to teach to cook?
If you are learning to cook, what do you want to learn to make?
In the next few days, I am going to be putting up some recipes and ideas for fast affordable meals that encompass the use of a few decent processed products, short cuts and cooking techniques to help make the transition out of the drive through more realistic.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please let me know.