Lauren’s Cooking Corner

I like to cook. And I’ve been told my cooking is pretty excellent (usually). It is only logical then that I would (and should) share some of “my” recipes with the world. I use “my” in quotations as many recipes have been adapted from various cookbooks, family members, and friends.

For my first cooking post, however, I’d like to touch on the subject of cooking resources. Generally, it isn’t all that easy to learn how to cook. It comes from years of staring at your parents slaving over the hot stove and praying that you remember some technique or another. Or maybe they get you involved in cooking, painstakingly teaching you the recipes they had learned from generations past. But let’s face it, many of us did not grow up having meals with our parents every night. Many of us ate out, or ate whatever was delivered, or just didn’t pay attention until it hit the table. I was lucky, I had parents that had me involved in cooking, and we generally ate together every night. Unfortunately, I have terrible memory.

First and foremost, find a family member that can cook and watch them. Assist them during Thanksgiving, or Christmas or Easter. Become their apprentice. This will most likely mean doing the grunt work, chopping onions, stirring soups, washing the dishes. One day you’ll get other people to do your grunt work, so just suck it up for now and deal with the onion induced pain and tears. Ask them to teach you your favorite dish of theirs (make sure to write it down). They’ll be flattered. And you may learn something!

Secondly, watch some cooking shows. Food Channel is okay, it’s not great. It’s either too flashy (I’ve never learned anything from Emril), or too damn simple-minded (Semi Homemade? ew). You might pick up a few tips if you watch the channel for a full day, but there is a quicker method. Three words. America’s Test Kitchen. It’s on Saturday morning on PBS Channel 21, and its the greatest. Christopher Kimball might have an egg-head and wear a bow-tie, but we shouldn’t hold that against him. The show will teach you to cook, pick out tasty everday products in your supermarket, and review ALL the equipment you should ever need in a cooking environment. I’ve honestly thought about donating to Public Television just because of this show.

Buy a cookbook. Or two. I started out with 30-minute meals from America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated. For Christmas, I received another America’s Test Kitchen cookbook for the best international dishes. Generally, any cookbook will have an index containing vital information on what degree to cook your meat, how to convert from the metric system to the English system, how many tablespoons are in a 1/4 cup or cup or what have you, how to properly mince or chop a vegetable and how to tell your pasta is done. The more recipes you make from the cookbook, the more you learn your own taste. Eventually, you’ll be able to add and subtract from those recipes to fit your tastes the best. And all the information on how to do that is in the index. Though there is one cookbook that I do not have, that is necessary for anyone who wishes to become a serious cook. And that is The Joy of Cooking. However, I have been told that my dad has recently purchased that for me.

Finally, test your food on your friends and loved ones. You are your hardest critic. Therefore you may not fully appreciate what you have created. Maybe it needed more garlic, or less onion. You think its too salty or too sweet, not cooked enough, or overcooked. Yes, it is important to cook something that you will enjoy. But don’t destroy yourself over it. See what other people think of it. They might love it and have you change nothing. They might have a suggestion you hadn’t thought of. They might just give you the confidence you need to continue your cooking ventures. Don’t just keep it to yourself.

So start cooking and enjoy!

-Lauren Guenveur


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