In his younger days, my dad attended a folk music circle. There are stories about all kinds of characters, but there was one guy who always gave this advice to newcomers: Learn three songs (well) on an instrument, and everybody will think you area a master. The first song you play will have people encouraging you to play another song. You protest a little, but acquiesce “reluctantly” and play your second song. Of course, your second song brings down the house, and everybody asks for a third. This time, you protest strongly, but again, “reluctantly” agree to play a final song. Everybody is blown away. Now you insist that you have taken up too much stage time and graciously bow out. Now everybody thinks you have mastered the instrument, and you are a humble troubadoor!
Learning to cook can seem like a daunting task, but if you take on the challenge with the mindset of an elder folk singer, then the project becomes a little less precipitous. Learn to cook three dishes, or three meals, and learn to cook them well. If you do this you will appear to be an exceptional chef, and you will gain confidence in the kitchen to be a knife-wielding, sauce-simmering, vegetable-roasting fiend!
As you start on your journey of learning to fake your way through the kitchen, here are a few tips I have picked up on my own journey:
- Cook something you are excited to eat! This doesn’t have to be true for everything you cook, but, for your first dish, create something you are as excited to prepare as you are to eat. Excitement is contagious, and you want the energy about your meal to catch!
- Make something you have not eaten before. Not only is this a chance for you to expand your skills, but expand your taste buds as well. Try a new spice, or a new way of preparing something.
- Learn variety. A soup, a central meat dish, something different with vegetables, mix fruit into a dish, roast vegetables instead of steaming or frying, do a fancy presentation, something good for each season. If you diversify your dishes, the illusion of being a talented cook will become even more believable.
- Finally, learn something about the food in the process. Whether you learn about a new culture through its food, or you learn something about food pairings or the science behind why you should salt your food before cooking, it doesn’t matter. Learn something new in conjunction with learning to prepare the meal itself!
Here are a few of my go-to meals/recipes:
- Kale Soup: This one is great! People will be impressed with the fact that you are using in-vogue healthy things like kale. The simmering vegetables makes your house or apartment smell amazing, and it is pretty simple…kale, onions, carrots, chicken broth, beans, and whatever spices you choose to add. I use this recipe from Epicurious. I have tinkered a little bit with this recipe for my own tastes, and it has been quite forgiving while I have played around with it.
- Steak and Asparagus: Honestly, this can be any meat-veggie combo, but this one seems to have a certain appeal. Again, you’re just trying start building your cooking repertoire so don’t get crazy. I usually buy pre-marinated steak, and roast the asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper (squeeze some lemon juice on the asparagus when you pull it out of the oven to give some extra life to the heavy greens!)
- Omelette: These take a little practice, but once you get a handle on cooking the eggs, a good omelette is a lot of fun. You can put whatever you want in an omelette so you get to personalize them, or try some new things out for yourself within the familiar and nutritious fluffy goodness of the omelette. Just remember, egg whites and a little bit of milk or creme is what makes the omelette more than just unbroken scrambled eggs.
Get out there and find your three things to cook! We’ve all got to eat so there is no time like the present!