The Evolution of a Home Cook
Turning a chore into a craft
Cooking as a Chore
The process of becoming an avid home cook can be intimidating, especially right at the very beginning. Straight off, you’re faced with significant costs: you have to stock your pantry with ingredients and spices, and you must outfit your kitchen with cookware, cutlery and other tools. You’re also faced with the difficulties of building skills: inexperience can mean more time and effort spent prepping and chopping your ingredients, under- or overcooking your food, and at the end of your efforts, you might just not like how it tastes.
These initial roadblocks prove too challenging to overcome for many. The view of cooking as a chore is prevalent, causing people to prefer eating out, getting takeout or fast food. In the past 40 years, fewer people are cooking, and those who are cooking spend less time doing it.
Submitting to this perception of home cooking as an onerous and unworthy task has some real costs. Cooking at home saves a lot of money over time (article), connects you with the food you’re cooking (future article), builds interpersonal connections (article), and grants you the independence to make your own food choices (article). But beyond these practical reasons, foregoing home cooking robs you of enjoying what many see as a thoroughly fulfilling endeavor.
Choosing to learn how to cook has never been easier because resources have never been more abundant. A wealth of instructional videos, recipe websites, and food blogs are just a web search away, not to mention the continually growing stock of incredible cookbooks. Investing time and resources into becoming a home cook is certain to yield a return over your lifetime. Per Mark Bittman, “Almost everyone I know who knows how to cook cooks. Almost no one who learns how to cook stops doing it”.
Cooking as a Hobby
Once you start developing your cooking chops, progress proceeds at an increasing rate. As you cook your way through more and more recipes, you recognize patterns and connect techniques. Your experience, for example, in cooking a homemade chicken noodle soup will come in handy when you want to try making minestrone. Both of those will educate you on cooking a proper mirepoix and the importance of deglazing your pan, which you can then use when braising meat or making a pan sauce.
In this way, cooking knowledge can grow exponentially. Mastery of techniques can easily translate between different cuisines and recipes, quickly expanding your cooking repertoire.
At this point, you may develop a passion for a particular type of cooking. You become celebrated among your friends and family for your incredible baking or your amazing Thai curries. You are happy to set aside a Saturday to pursue an intricate recipe or experiment with a new cuisine. Cooking has become more than a means to an end – it is an activity that brings joy to yourself and those around you.
Cooking as a Craft
Continued experience and experimentation expands cooking from exploration to self-expression. You can draw on your culinary knowledge to open your refrigerator and just cook, using your own favored style and flair. Cooking has transformed from an occasional task into a lifestyle choice.
For those who view cooking as a craft, the act of cooking is as enjoyable as the final product. You achieve a zen-like satisfaction in pursuing the process of cooking. From initial preparation to final presentation (and even cleaning the dishes afterwards), you relish the experience of focusing on a singular, consuming task.
There is a wide culinary world to explore through cooking. Continuing down your own cooking path is sure to inspire and bring joy to you and those you invite to come along.
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