The Artistry of Cooking. I began cooking in middle school. I was in my early high school years before I got more serious about cooking. This initial cooking was mainly due to necessity as school felt humdrum. That feeling gave me a reason to be creative in the kitchen. My mom was a single mother and worked many hours. I knew that I needed to take on the challenge of cooking. When I cooked, I made sure that the food was ready when my mom got home from work. I made things like an open face hamburger on one piece of wheat bread. I topped the burger with steamed broccoli and Swiss cheese. I served it with a small salad on the side. I was eleven or twelve years old at the time. We did not have much money meaning my food choices were limited. My mom would always tell me that the food was creative and tasted very good. I assumed that a mother was required by law to say that. I am sure that it helped that she did not have to cook after working all day.
From an early age, I cooked a Mother’s Day meal nearly every year for my mom. I was incredibly creative, and I always tried to top the previous year’s creativity. The last Mother’s Day meal that I cooked was the year that I turned 25. Even after all those years I still surprised my mom with my creativity. As they say “practice makes perfect.”
Taste is subjective making cooking like art. You can give the same recipe to ten different people and get ten different dishes. By changing just one or two ingredients, you can change the meal entirely. I rarely used a recipe and never wrote anything down.
Cooking is like life you learn only when you make mistakes. I have known people who say that they cannot make a dish. Sometimes the reason is as simple as they don’t like a specific ingredient. I tell them to replace it with something that you enjoy. I let them know that it would change the recipe to something that they would eat. If you do not like garlic, then leave it out. Don’t like cilantro replace it with parsley. The number of recipe replacement options is unlimited. Being a cook is like falling in love. You’re all in, or you’re not in it at all.
I have several friends who often cook creatively. Sometimes they post on Facebook the meals they make. These food images bring back memories of my days of cooking. These are untrained home cooks. They remind us that preparing food takes a small leap of faith. Their actions encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone. We need to be willing to make some mistakes that are edible. In the beginning, you may even make a few things that you should not eat. However, our errors make us stronger. Real cooking is more about following your heart than following recipes.
I also learned how baking is like chemistry. There are very few ingredients that you can eliminate or replace without significant complications. Remove fruit, and you must consider the juice that you are removing. You must carefully contemplate every change that you make when you bake. Change the wrong thing, and you can get a failed product.
Enormous Epicurious Error. Throughout my life, I watched a plethora of cooking shows. I learned that home cooks tend to under-salt their food when cooking. This dilemma makes many of us over-salt our food at the table. This behavior can negatively impact our health. I have always heard chiefs say to salt the water before boiling pasta or potatoes. I later learned that they don’t mean a couple of shakes from the salt shaker. Soon I began hearing chefs say that your water should taste like the sea. I did not know what that meant. I then heard one chef say to use two tablespoons of salt in a large pot of boiling water for pasta. I tried it, and it blew me away. I now use one and a third teaspoon of salt in four cups of water. I use less water and less salt when cooking for one. Several years ago my last homemaker was helping me prepare spaghetti. She did not understand adding all of the salt. Then she tried a cooked noodle. She now adds salt in this quantity to her pasta water at home.
I believe that I am what you would call a food adventurer. I am not a picky eater as I have had some extreme food. I have eaten unique food from Greece, Thailand, Laos, and others. I tried this food without batting an eye. I am confident that in Greece they tried to gross me out, but failed. The only food aversion that I have is grapefruit. Thankfully, it is a rare fruit in the restaurant world. I have also seen very few recipes for the home cook that call for it.
I read somewhere that said that the average American buys the same few items. People tend to purchase food in their comfort zone. I would encourage everyone to buy a food product that they have never cooked before. Try this once a month. Have you ever made pot stickers? You might love them because they are easier to cook than you think. Does Rigatoni Al Segreto sound complicated to prepare and out of your skill level? It is more elementary than you might think. Remember: add or subtract as you like: “that’s just you cooking.” Now get out there and cook something new. You just might surprise yourself and your family.