I’ve always had a sense of pride that I couldn’t cook. Maybe it made me feel like a modern woman and that somehow having the skills of food preparation was a sign that my gender hadn’t progressed from a domesticated history. Outsourcing my diet made sense when I lived in cities where food was cheap, and the kitchens I had access to were decorated with a shared mess.
Then, about six months ago — as the third takeaway dinner for the week arrived — a new sensation came over me. I was suddenly conscious of every dollar spent, the tightening of my pants, and a clean yet unused kitchen staring me down. I knew — it was time to DIY my meals.
Thankfully, I’ve always loved good food (if just eating it), so delving into a new world of preparation tickled a fancy that was already there. Along the way, taste became a whole different sensation when I knew that I was in charge of it. That I could apply what I was learning every day made me feel a different, more capable woman, and so I openly encourage everyone to pick up a spatula and get sautéing.
Much like learning any new skill the rules are the same — start small, practice and enjoy yourself. These are my tips for a kitchen newbie:
It might be tempting to skip ahead and make it up as you go, but I think it’s fair to say that a new cook should stick to the rules. While the ability to successfully experiment will come naturally as you develop confidence, following a recipe ingredient list and method will mean that you will learn processes and slowly start to understand what leads to the final outcome.
We are spoilt for choice online, so I’d recommend finding a website with a particular spin that appeals to you and signing up to their newsletter. Whether that means traditional comfort foods, vegetarian creations, or dishes with a healthy edge, it will help you to keep inspiration up.
A good craftswoman never blames her tools, but after attempting a tomato and mozzarella salad with a poor quality, blunt knife I decided that if I was ever going to actually enjoy cooking, I’d have to stock my kitchen with the right utensils.
This guide to buying kitchen knives helped me out and I’ve started my collection with just one quality chefs knife. Learning how to sharpen your knives is also a wise move to keep clutter down and extend a blade’s life.
Other smart investments might be in a solid cast iron pan, a mixing bowl set, wooden chopping boards and spatulas. Depending on what you like to cook, your collection of kitchen equipment and appliances will definitely build up over time to reflect whatever whim arises.
Fresh, quality ingredients are the starting point to a fresh, quality meal. It might be tempting to cut corners and go for the bottled sauces, frozen vegetables and packet mixes — but to truly experience all the wonders of cooking, embrace real ingredients.
Browse the whole-foods section of the supermarket for inspiration and arrive at the shops with a clear list. It will help you stay on track when it might be tempting to take shortcuts.
Learning to do anything can be a bit of a drag when it feels like a long time until you can reap the rewards. The good thing about cooking is that you can enjoy your creations right away, and often a lot of people will be happy to share with you your journey to becoming a master chef.
Put some music or a podcast on while you prep, pour yourself a glass of wine, and take beautiful photos of your dishes to share online. Consider hosting a “I’m Learning to Cook” dinner (which sets expectations), and make it fun!
Hopefully these tips are helpful for any other kitchen virgins. Food is such an important part of our everyday. I’ve saved money, feel fresher and as a note to my old self — a modern woman doesn’t shy away from learning. Far from it, she looks for opportunities to better her health and expand her knowledge. That, and she knows how to make a mean vege lasagne.
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Danielle is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She loves that writing lets her explore new topics and ideas, and has a particular interest in travel, health, food and business. Letting pots of tea go cold and watching foreign cinema are her other pastimes.