Monday, September 19, 2011

Learning to Cook Dinner

I don't remember learning to cook. I guess it's been something I've learned by helping over the years. I can remember being in middle school cooking things, and having some spectacular failures. Knowing how to cook is something I admit I often take for granted. I don't have to think about how to put dinner on the table every night. This weekend, I was reminded that so many people struggle with that daily dilemma. For lots of families this is a truth:

One of Prince Charming's friends is moving 10 minutes away from my house this week. In talking with this friend's wife, K, she asks me if I can teach her to cook. Of course- I love creating new foodies. :)

In thinking about how to teach her to cook, I thought I'd share some tips with you. Just in case you have trouble in the dinner department too.

1. Start small, and don't over-do it. I only cook one new recipe a week. Like any new thing, trying to do a whole lot at once is overwhelming. Even if you can't boil water, just pick one day a week to try a recipe. I like the weekend, since I tend to be more relaxed and not so stressed about getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. After a while, you'll be able to add more nights in where you cook things you already know how to make.

2. Start by making a list of things you like to eat. For so many people, the hardest thing about dinner (other than the fact it comes EVERY DAY), is figuring out what to make. The first step to meal planning is thinking of what you like. I made a list of things I liked to eat when I was in my first apartment. Those are the things you want to learn to cook first. Once you know them, you can have Taco Tuesdays or Spaghetti Fridays or whatever.

3. Don't be intimidated by fancy names of dishes. You might think you could never make boeuf bourguignon, when really, it's beef stew in a fancy dress. Chicken Parmesan? That's breaded chicken with spaghetti sauce and cheese. Risotto? Slow cooked rice.

4. Don't be afraid of meal helpers. Lots of people cook dinner every night with Hamburger Helper, make cakes with Duncan Heinz, and are perfectly good cooks. The reason those products are on the shelf is that it makes dinner cheaper/ easier/ faster. So use them if you want or need to.

5. Expect failure. Even Julia Child had flops. We all do. I still remember the dried out Thanksgiving turkey that was raw inside. The key is to say "oh well" and just eat all the side dishes.

Hopefully, this advice helps you in your dinner escapades. Please let me know if you'd like to hear about how K  learns to cook.

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