Life Skills: Cooking

I admit that I may get on my soap box a bit here, so if you chose to skip this post, I will not be offended. However, I think this is something that needs to be said for the sake of future generations. Perhaps I’m turning into the grumpy old lady, but here I go.

While I am all about technology and being a geek, I think there are some solid, life skills that are not being taught to the younger generations. I plead with parents out there, please teach your children basic, life skills.

I am talking about basic stuff here – how to cook for oneself.

How to drive a car with a manual transmission (stick shift).

How to ride a bike.

I am stunned at the people I run into (young adults) that can’t do many of these simple tasks for themselves.

Let me start off with cooking. When I was a young teenager, I prided myself on the ability to “cook”. I use that term in jest since I was basically following the directions on a blue cardboard box of Mac-N-Cheese and calling that food. I would bake frozen fish sticks and pride myself on the wonderful dinner I’d prepared.

I did have a few cookbooks when I was a child – one was a gift and the other was a vintage Children’s cookbook that I used to learn to cook simple meals (sloppy joe’s) with my mother’s help. Nothing too fancy, just simple stuff. I still treasure my first two cookbooks.

(My vintage cookbook)

(My first cookbook)

Fast forward some 15 years and I realize that while I can follow a recipe, I can’t really “cook” – create dishes on the fly from ingredients found in my pantry and/or fridge and have a solid, edible meal. This is a skill that I lack and one I wish I would have begun working on earlier in my life. Just about anyone can follow a recipe and that is valuable, but being able to throw together a meal in a hurry is truly a valuable life skill.

Last year, my husband and I visited a cousin of his and I was amazed at her ability to throw together a meal so simply – with sometimes seemingly random ingredients. She even cooked for us over a camp stove and we had wonderful dishes like risotto with lobster & asparagus while camping in a log cabin with NO electricity or running water.

(Zoe’s camp kitchen in our cabin)

Her meals were always yummy and I became intrigued with her awesome cooking skills and I never saw her consult a cookbook. She even bakes all of her own bread – she doesn’t ever buy store bought bread!

(Toast made from homemade bread)

Later in the trip, we stayed with her mother (my husband’s aunt) for a few days and I remarked at how both of her children seemed to be excellent cooks – I’d heard from her son’s wife how wonderfully he could cook. So, I asked her “I find it a coincidence that both of your children are good cooks. Tell me, how did you do this?” and she explained that ever since they were kids, she had them cook at least one dinner per week for the family. She went on to explain that she got the kids (she estimated they were in 3rd and 4th grade when she started this) a kid’s cookbook and let them choose recipes for their meal each week. She’d buy the necessary groceries and help them with some basics (I’m assuming knife skills), but soon they were cooking with greater efficiency and ease. Looking back on this now, I think that their comfort and familiarity in the kitchen is a huge asset to them and their significant others. I wish I would have continued to further my cooking skills from my childhood into adulthood.

Soon after returning home from our trip I began to test my culinary skills. It became  increasingly evident to me how many people really don’t know how to truly COOK. They can throw a bunch packaged foods together (cream of mushroom soup, pre-cooked/sliced chicken and instant rice) in a dish, throw it in the oven, but is that really cooking – or is it more like assembly of food-like substances?

Do you know how to properly dice an onion? Do you know how to chop up a whole chicken? How about how to peel and grate ginger?

A few years ago, I made it a goal of mine to learn to bake bread from scratch. I had some epic failures, but once I learned some basics, I can now bake not only bread, but king cakes – with ease! Baking yeast breads is now second nature to me.

(No knead, crusty bread)

(A traditional loaf of bread)

I challenge you to start learning to cook – figure out what goes into making the food that you really enjoy. Start with dissecting and trying to re-create your favorite restaurant meal. Get some ideas by perusing recipes online (there’s plenty out there, trust me). Watch YouTube videos on techniques to learn them – that’s how I learned to properly dice an onion. These skills will come in handy one day. Cooking for yourself has so many benefits – it’s less costly and usually more healthy. You know what is in the food you are eating and it’s also usually more tasty.

Give it a try and be patient with yourself. After a good, solid year of experimenting, I am still learning. However, I can say with pride that I have some tried and true creations under my belt that I can rely on when I need to quickly throw together a meal. I’ve learned how to properly scramble eggs and I can whip up breakfast in just a few minutes. I’ve experimented with spices, vegetables and cuts of meat I’d never tried before. Sometimes it works out beautifully and other times, I chalk it up to a learning experience. Either way, take pride in what you create and in the new skill you are developing – it will serve you well, I promise!

My next “life skill” post will focus on why I believe everyone needs to know how to drive a car with a manual transmission. What life skills do you think it’s important for everyone to know?

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2 Responses to Life Skills: Cooking

  1. Marge says:

    Swimming. Can’t believe people don’t teach their kids how to swim.

    And trying new food. Like olives or sauerkraut. Getting out of your comfort zone in the “cuisine”…

    Choosing your husband wisely. That’s the most important one, I guess. Especially when it comes to cooking, haha :)

  2. Wonderful recipe, i will consider it together with my wife for dinner. Hope i get it right! Cheers

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