I think, because we always see these amazing chefs on our TV screens, that we think we know what “great cooking” looks like. Aside from the fact that not everyone thinks TV chefs are, in all actuality, great chefs… we shortchange ourselves idolizing these people.
I mean, I’ll keep it real – Sandra Lee cooks everything from a box or a can. It might look “great” (again, questionable) in the end, but her style of “cooking” doesn’t serve our purposes, here at BGG2WL. Rachael Ray, while she’s all over the place with magazines and books lauding her cooking, is the comfort food queen. Comfort food, if you’ll recall, is the stuff we use to emotionally eat.
I think that idolizing these TV chefs only serves to further separate us from our goals of becoming the person who can create an amazing dish with limited resources and in a short amount of time. I know that when I’m in my kitchen tossing stuff around trying to figure out what, on Earth, to cook… I don’t rock an outfit perfectly matching my kitchen, with perfect makeup, and every perfect piece of equipment in my kitchen. Sometimes, I get gritty. Sometimes, I even sweat (not in the food, though.) And sometimes, I even – gasp – screw up. Having said that, there are five things that I think we should remember when it comes to making ourselves better kitchen dynamos.
1) You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on high-tech equipment to be an amazing chef. Can it help? Yes, much like wearing high heels can make you sexier. Sure, they help you accomplish your goal, but a creative person certainly can accomplish their goal without it.
At least half of my kitchen was stocked thanks to the dollar store. Yes, the dollar store. Spatulas, ladles, cutting boards, graters, kitchen scissors, measuring cups, measuring spoons, pot holders, colanders and knives. All things that you can stand to purchase for a dollar.
News flash: Products on clearance aren’t always “less than” their full price counterparts… especially when that product was full price a week ago. Approximately 99% of my kitchen appliances were purchased on clearance. Have a little patience, save your money for a clearance… then go in for the kill. I own an awesome 15-piece stainless steel cookware set… superclearance for $40. It’s lasted me 3 years thus far.. no trouble.
Beyond all that… there are cultures that make amazing food with little more than a mortar, a pestle, and a bonfire. Amazing food. I’m almost certain they would cringe at the thought of using our fancy equipment. Just another way to show that the equipment doesn’t make the chef.
2) Your screw-ups will taste disgusting, be hilarious, and always teach you something. I remember the first time I realized the difference between chili powder and curry powder. It was a bad day for mankind. I also remember the day I learned just how much ginger I could use in a dish before I sent my daughter crying from the table in a fit of dispair. Again, a bad day for mankind. How about the day I learned how to really cook brown rice? That day, I had to give my little one a hug because she suffered through all those traumatic servings of crunchy brown rice. But now that I know how to make an awesome brown rice? I’m unstoppable. Now that I understand ginger better? My stir-fry is awesomeness in a wok. Now that I know the difference between chili powder and curry powder, well… my daughter actually eats her food. Trial and error is fun in my house.
3) There is no such thing as “that’s not a meal.” I’m generally opposed to big giant monument sized dinners – particularly because small portions of a gigantic meal are the same as gigantic portions of a meal with small offerings – but I’m also opposed to the idea that says something traditionally used for one purpose cannot serve another purpose. You might not eat a slice of bread from the grocery for breakfast… but if you bake a loaf of banana bread and give yourself a slice for breakfast? That is a meal. It is hearty, has fruit, fiber, will wake you up.. and save yourself a few calories in place of cereal and milk. Don’t be afraid to make an amazing dish out of a small amount of ingredients. It allows you to enjoy the flavors you’re combining that much more!
4) Just because you don’t like a fruit or vegetable by itself… doesn’t mean you can’t find a good use for it. There are a lot of things I cannot stand by themselves – cranberries, for instance – that go wonderfully in other dishes – for instance, apple pie. If I counted them out completely, I’d never be able to take advantage of that super sweetness they have naturally, allowing me to use less sugar in my apple pie recipe. I cringe – cringe – at the thought of eating eggplant alone, but I do enjoy it chopped up in a salad with sun-dried tomatoes and a little olive oil. Zucchini and I don’t get along at all, but I learned that they are amazing on pizza. Yes. Pizza.
5) There is something actually fulfilling about cooking… and it’s okay to seek out that fulfillment. I don’t know what it is… but there is a feeling I get from mixing up all the ingredients from scratch, watching it cook to my liking, feeding it to my little one, and watching her fall totally in love with it. Biting into my own work, and feeling as if I’ve accomplished a masterpiece? That’s an ego boost… much like when I braid my daughter’s hair into a replica of The Eiffel Tower (I’m kidding… sorta) or if I finish a project early for work. Just makes me feel like I know what I’m doing… and that never hurts.
What do you have to share with newbie chefs? Are you a newbie chef with questions? Have a good kitchen screw-up to share? (Aw, c’mon, I love those!) Let’s hear it!