The purpose of cooking is not only to produce food to eat for ourselves and those we love. Many lessons can be learned from cooking up a meal. Let’s face it, food is a necessity, and we have to get it from somewhere, and there are only so many choices.
The choices we have are: buy from a restaurant or fast-food joint, let someone else cook for you, or cook it yourself. Now not all of us have husbands that cook or moms still living with us or children who know how to put together a good meal. Yes, the answer is DO IT YOURSELF.
With much anxiety, I decided to dig down to the bottom of my soul and uncork what I have learned from cooking. I know there is much to tell. Hold on to your hats; this might be a rocky ride.
When a person learns how to cook with Mom, the mentor is always there to prevent disasters. “Add that cup of sugar, Dearie.” So easy.
Then I got married. It was me against that stove. Suddenly everything I had learned with Mom had vanished from my head. I had been relying on her, and now I was out on my own, a fledgling. Even the stove began to mock me.
I felt like an idiot and acted like one too…literally crying over spilt milk. I was so bad that one of my friends bought me a cookbook entitled “Something Went Wrong What Do I Do Now”? I was not insulted!
What I learned: Sandi, you are not a good cook. You need to step back and do some soul searching. You alone cannot fight the big fight when it comes to you against that stove. Get help.
I was in such a hurry to make an impression on my friends and relatives. I totally jumped the gun, started before I was ready. I would invite everyone over and decide to cook a five course meal.
In my mind I envisioned a lovely sauce and meatballs for my guests. What I got was burnt sauce and very ugly meatballs that were tasteless.
The bread was great. I ordered it from the local Italian bakery. Luckily for my guests, I ordered the dessert from the bakery also. They got bread, butter and cannoli for dinner served on my newly acquired Lenox china. I served them wine from the beginning, so I am sure they were in a receptive mood for my culinary faux pas.
I knew exactly what I was doing wrong, but my body had its own agenda.
What I learned: I did not take the time to relax and enjoy the task. I just wanted to get it over with, but that attitude did not help me succeed. Patience is a virtue, and I was not virtuous.
3. The Art of Stopping the Bleeding
Learning how to fix myself up after destroying a part of my body was vey useful later when I had a child. I knew exactly how to stop the bleeding, medicate, and bandage the child after playground mishaps. I had experience practicing on myself, and believe me, I had many many misadventures.
What I learned: Work slowly. Rushing is your enemy. Time is NOT. Think before you do. Take it down a notch, and you will fare much better in preventing wounds.
Every single movement means something when cooking. Concentrate on each and every motion. Touch the vegetable to feel the texture. Listen to the tap as the knife hits the cutting board. Take time to cut a vegetable. Notice how it sprays a bit of its juice, and smell the aroma as it lingers. Take a deep breath and enjoy the experience.
Pop a bite into your mouth and savor it. Enjoy the color, and imagine how it will add to the interest of the dish. Look forward to the end result when the tiny piece of veggie is part of a magnificent eating experience.
What I learned: Pay attention to detail. Prepare for what might happen. Avoid misfortune before it can strike. Enjoy every breathing moment of the cooking experience.
Distractions are everywhere. Husband comes in. “Honey, where are my gardening jeans?” You tell him and then realize that you do not remember if you put the baking powder in. OH DEAR!
The phone rings and you forget there is anything on the stove or in the oven until the smoke alarm goes off. OH MY!
What I learned: This is the first step in learning how to multitask successfully. Plan your behavior as the distractions come in. Finish what you are doing before you answer the husband’s question. Complete the task before you answer the phone. Don’t answer the phone at all. Got it? Until you are expert in multitasking, progress easily to the goal line.
There is nothing worse that a kitchen that looks like a bomb went off with you standing in the middle. In my cooking regimen, every step has 2 steps to it; perform the step, and put the ingredients away. That is my mantra. Use the flour and put it back in the cupboard.
Before I begin a project, I look at the recipe and get the ingredients ready. As I read down the ingredients, I prepare it in its cup or teaspoon in order. This really works to help alleviate the possibility of error.
What I learned: The night before I plan to cook, I organize all ingredients next to the recipe book on the counter. First of all, this motivates me to get to work as soon as I get up. No procrastination.
7. Common Sense
Common sense was difficult for me. I had to train my mind. ‘Wait, all that sugar seems like it will make the muffins too sweet for my taste and that of my family. I think I will only use 1/2 cup rather than 3/4.” This mind intervention started happening to me as soon as I got my confidence. Now I can substitute for all kinds of outcomes. It took a lot of trials and tribulations.
What I learned: Nothing is written in stone. You can experiment and eventually, you will come out with exactly the result you want for a recipe. Then the recipe is YOURS.
8. Healthy Habits
I have a ritual before I begin to cook. I learned this from Dot, but it makes total sense. I brush my shirt, shoulders, and back. I pull back my hair and make sure there are no strands hanging loose. I brush my jeans, apron or anything else I am wearing. Then I wash my hands for at least 20 seconds all the way up to my elbows. When I am sure I am clean, I begin cooking.
What I learned: Ritual is good. It keeps a person on the right track. I know with confidence that my food with be particle free. If I have a very clean “out of the laundry” baseball hat, I wear that too.
9. Grace Under Pressure
Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure” in all of his novels. His heroes and heroines exercised this quality throughout his works.
I am in tune with Papa Hemingway. I learned to practice how not to panic in any situation. It takes guts to just stop, step back, and proceed again when I am ready.
When I achieve grace, I make the difficult look easy. That’s is the goal.
What I learned: I feel so successful when I complete something and complete it well. It is a confidence builder. If I take my time and think, the grace will come.
Everything that I learned from cooking can translate into every facet of my life. I am humble because I know whatever I pursue, will be a long road. Things do not come to a person without hard work and perseverance.
I am happy that I enjoy cooking. I have many more lessons to learn so I have been cooking A LOT.