My kitchen and I have been having a staring contest since I moved in. So far, I think I’m losing.
I know plenty of people who are single and living alone who are perfectly capable of cooking somewhat delicious tasting, non-takeout or non-microwaveable meals—but I’ll let you know something: I’m not one of them.
And while I could probably continue to subsist on cold milk and cereal, or Subway and Pizza Hut, for dinner, I realized something over the past year.
I would like to be married and have kids someday. And according to Ms. Irene in New Orleans, I’ll have a daughter and a son. The realization came with not just a little soul searching, and well, who am I deny the words of a New Orleans palm reader? All well and good. But then it hit me:
These kids are gonna have to eat.
And while having kids might be years away, it will be nice not to starve until then. So since cooking has always intimidated me, I’ve named November the month to start getting over my tendency to default toward Ramen-like meals.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Buy only the essential essentials…for now
Saucepans, mixing bowls, a baking sheet, and staples like butter, flour, sugar and salt. If you had all these things already, you are way ahead of where I was, um, a few weeks ago. With everything else, you can improvise when you get there. And if you get as easily stressed out by endless recipes as I do, baby steps are the only to preserve sanity.
Find one good cookbook and cling to it for dear life
For me, that’s Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food. She does make it simple, and the hand-drawn illustrations make the read non-threatening.
Mise en Place (that’s Le Français for “everything in its place”)
This one’s a gem from Alice. She recommends reading a recipe ahead of time and laying out not only the ingredients but also the utensils and equipment needed. My own suggestion: read the recipe multiple times and highlight. It’s really annoying to buy all the ingredients you didn’t have on Sunday and be all excited on Monday evening to put it all together—only to read that one portion of your recipe calls for 4 hours of refrigeration. GREAT!
Beg, borrow, steal
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing or pinching ingredients from mom and dad. Nothing can deter a zealous culinary-unhopeful such as myself like a long list of the smaller, less obvious ingredients. Like, for example, a recipe I tried out yesterday that called for ground nutmeg. Ground nutmeg? I’m sure it’s important, but what exactly does it DO? When else will I need it? Right now I need simplicity, not answers. So I (unintentionally) displayed my ignorance to the parents, and they were more than happy to let me take the called-for tablespoon in a plastic Ziploc bag. Crisis averted.
Get used to inconvenience
Like many awesome things, good-tasting and healthy meals come at a price, mainly inconvenience. I can’t name many drool-worthy Indian meals my parents make (and yes, I WILL most definitely be learning that too!) that don’t require the oven and/or stovetop.
So for now I’ve decided that everything that needs heating or reheating needs to NOT go in the microwave anymore (little steps, remember?). I may not be ready to cook a pot roast yet, but the shiny new cookware I bought recently mainly for the sake of the next generation (Lord help them) has got to come out of the box!
This week I’m trying to make apple pie and get used to using real, LIVE cookware. Updates to come, and don’t worry, more over-opinionated relationship analysis forthcoming as well!
Any tips from you experienced home cooks out there? Am I missing something?