One of my favourite things in the world to do is sit around the kitchen counter with family or friends as the pots are bubbling away on the stove, hoovering up both conversation and wine while we’re waiting for the food to be ready. I find that a good meal is a satiating experience and just like music, it’s better when it’s shared. What better way to show people you love them than by making them something delicious?
This past weekend we had a newly-single friend over for just such an evening. During the course of the meal, the conversation turned to food and she mentioned that her ex-hubby used to do most of the cooking. As a result, her skills were rusty and she felt nervous in the kitchen. Based on food-centric conversations I’ve had with a lot of people, she is apparently not alone.
Seemingly against the grain, my relationship with cooking has been somewhat different. From a fairly young age, mom would task me with chopping things while she was busy at the stove (no wonder I have a dysfunctional relationship with knives). I become the reluctant cook in my teens as she had figured out how to con me into making dinner. It’d go something like “can you just quickly get supper on the go – I’m coming now” before promptly disappearing for 45 minutes. Fast forward 25 years and I’m still falling for that con! (“Come for dinner… Can you just quickly help chop this onion – I’ll be back now”).
Cook like Granny
Over the past decade or so, I have increasingly adopted the Slow Food mindset. If you’ve never heard of Slow Food, it’s exactly what the name suggests – the opposite of “fast food”. It’s not necessarily about the time it takes to make a dish but rather about not buying buy mass-produced food products. At its most basic level, it’s about choosing to focus on quality, sustainability and supporting smaller, more local products and producers where and when you are able to. For me it’s become a conscious effort to cook and enjoy food with mindfulness and purpose – to do it like Granny did.
So, getting back to you, my kitchen-traumatised friend…
The kitchen is an animal that can smell fear. Show it who’s boss!
I’m far from being a domestic goddess. Like most people, I still work a day job and juggle plenty of other commitments. There is the requirement to balance my desire for decent food with the amount of time I have available to make it. So much like flowing water, I tend to try and take the path of least resistance. This approach, combined with lessons learnt from loads of kitchen mistakes, has resulted in some suggestions to hopefully aid your confidence and your budget.
Here are my top 5:
Tip #1 – Forget MasterChef – them bitches be cray cray, Boo! Despite the fact you’re brunette and drink wine, you’re not Nigella. You’re single and working 3 jobs to make ends meet, so lower your expectations. Don’t try to cook like you’re on TV.
Tip #2 – Find one or two simple recipes that are easy to remember. Google is the friend that will help you here. Or any book that’s titled something like “100 easy recipes” is also a good place to start. An easy meal done well will always, always trump a fancy dish done averagely.
Tip #3 – Adopt my mom’s mantra of “substitute and replace”. There is no need to buy weird ingredients you’ll only ever use once (and don’t lie to yourself that’ll you will use them regularly!). Have a couple of readily available, cost effective, standard grocery items in the cupboard. You can do loads with just salt, pepper and a bottle of olive oil.
Tip #4 – Your finished product will never ever look like the picture. It will probably look more like a train wreck. Mine almost always does. But you’re going to be smashing it into your face, not displaying it in an art gallery. If it’s tasty, who actually cares what it looks like…
Tip #5 – Make a basic dish in larger amounts then divide and freeze. That way you’ll have your own tastier-than-the-shop “TV dinner” for the days when you get home late or just honestly couldn’t be bothered.
Cooking – “it ain’t no thang”. So please – no more popcorn dinners!
Do you have a kitchen / cooking tip to help out my mate? Add to the comment section below!