I’m convinced that cooking is not simply part of my life, but also part of my DNA. The earliest record of my time in the kitchen is from before I turned one. Cooking is simply part of the culture of my family and so many memories take place around a boiling pot or home cooked meal. So, believe me when I say that I am no rookie with a French knife.
For many women, the kitchen is not a place filled with happy memories. In fact, it’s the last place many of them enjoy spending their time. And that’s understandable. Unless you have a love-relationship with food, it’s difficult to experience the thrill of cooking on a daily basis. Despite those ill-feelings, people inevitably need to eat and food always needs to be cooked. As nice as it is to order out, this option is unrealistic with a limited cash flow.
So, how can we make the kitchen a little less stressful, improve the quality of meals, and maybe even find a way to enjoy it? (We could make add chocolate to everything, though last I checked it doesn’t go well with chicken!)
My #1 advice to wives (or anyone, really) who want to become better in the kitchen is to pick a cuisine and study it. I’m not telling you to master the art of Korean food. Instead, I want you to learn to cook at least three different recipes from a specific cuisine. They don’t have to be difficult, but they will give you practical experience in how ingredients go together.
Understanding the basic fundamentals of a cuisine makes it easy to walk into the kitchen and make something out of nothing. No longer will you wonder what to do when there is
no plan. When you understand the basics of how ingredients pair, you can work meal-miracles. Knowing your spices is just as important as knowing the rest of the dish. Recognizing which flavors pair well is critical in serving a great dish every single time. And what better way to learn the nuances of food than by studying a culture?
So, where do we begin on this journey to better kitchen skills? I always recommend Italian.* It’s a relatively mild cuisine that doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. Plus, it introduces you to ingredients that pop up in quite a few other cultures. Often, my fallback when cooking meats and last minute dishes is Italian. These dishes are typically budget-friendly and taste like a million bucks.
So, where do we begin on this journey? I recommend starting at your library. When I’m starting into a new cuisine, I find it helpful to have several books on hand to reference. You can also utilize Pinterest to find recipes to try. Just make sure that wherever you go to learn that you have access to information regarding techniques and tricks of the trade.
Don’t be afraid to turn to older resources. Some of the best advice I’ve found has come from books published before 1980. Unlike other things, food and culinary techniques from other cultures are rarely, if ever, outdated. Some of the best-kept secrets that make other cultures’ food great have been passed down for generations. So, be willing to explore all sorts of books and websites to get a better understanding of the culture you are researching.
Another great way to learn is to ask questions. You might not know anyone right now who excels in the cuisine you are studying but ask around. If you live near an authentic restaurant, plan to stop in for lunch at a slow time. A lot of chefs would be flattered by your interest in their craft. If you’re lucky, they may even invite you back to the kitchen for a hands-on experience!
Once you’ve successfully made and mastered at least three dishes, you can move on to a different cuisine. I suggest selecting a cuisine that utilizes similar ingredients to help build on what you just learned. A great place to go from Italian is Mexican. It’s another relatively inexpensive option that has many remarkably similar dishes to Italy. (Be sure to notice the similarities between salsa and bruschetta!)
Currently, I’m focusing on learning the art of traditional foods. My counter tops and pantry are filled with a variety of fermented concoctions that I’m excited to try in a couple weeks. The more I understand food, the more excited I am to learn more. Having a basic foundation of spices and ingredients has been so impacting in my own journey with food. Though I’ve been blessed to have well over a decade of experience in the kitchen, there is always more room to learn. So, never think you know it all. I can guarantee there’s something more out there to discover that just might change everything.
*Unsure of what dishes to tackle? I recommend learning to make homemade marinara sauce, homemade meatballs, Chicken Cacciatocre, Chicken Carbonara, and Bruchetta. If you feel especially inspired, homemade noodles are also an interesting art to explore. I love Italian food because many of the recipes I know and love require only slight variations. You’ll soon discover this as you venture into this wonderful, delicious world of food!