Prior to the pandemic, if you would have asked me, “What is the one skill you want to learn?” My answer would have been simple – “Learning how to cook.” Sadly, I lost my confidence in cooking a long time ago.
Before March 2020, I never cooked. I mean, never. Keep in mind, I traveled more than I was home. When I was in Chicago, I often wouldn’t eat until 8 or 9 PM. By the time I left work or event, I had zero desire to cook anything but a frozen pizza.
Over time, my confidence in cooking took a nose dive. Sure, I knew how to cook some things. However, I often joked that I could barely boil pasta, much less sous vide a steak.
Confidence in Cooking
Growing up, my parents rarely cooked. My mom preferred restaurants and takeout. Sure, she could make a few dishes here and there, but she showed her love by ordering meals (and probably saving time and stress along the way).
Looking back, I wish I would have asked her why she really didn’t cook. I’ll never know the answer. However, one thing I know for sure – she was a phenomenal baker. Like incredible. Neighbors, friends, and family still rave about her Christmas cookies and other sweets to this day.
When I was a little girl, we’d spend hours and hours rolling dough, making cakes, cookies, brownies, and more. She taught me how to bake, but not how to cook.
In fact, I can measure ingredients and roll dough with the best of them! However, “trusting my gut” and improvising with ingredients while cooking is a whole other story. “Add salt to taste?!” No, thank you!
Learning How to Cook
One of the surprising highlights of socially distancing, besides spending extra quality time with B, has been learning how to cook. Yep, I’m talking about everything from the basics to advanced techniques.
Listen, I’m not a food blogger. We turn to our good friend, Kit of The Kittchen for tips and tricks on everything from crock pot recipes to Thanksgiving side dishes. Plus, you have been so helpful (and patient) with me as I learn the basics. Countless of you have reached out to encourage me, dropped a note, sent a recipe, and told me everything was going to be okay. It means so much!
Almost a year later, I’m extremely proud of my progress. In some ways, I’m thankful it took me this long to learn how to cook. Now that I’m older (and wiser – I hope), I’m appreciating the techniques and the small steps of my journey.
Why I’ve Struggled with Cooking
Growing up, most cooking methods were taught via cookbooks or through family and friends. Today, there are a plethora of resources.
Plus, the Internet offers deep-dive dissertations on everything from kosher salt to cutting boards. Quality cookware, bakeware, gadgets and gizmos? Done! Best cooking techniques? Got you. My go-to resources include Wirecutter, Good Housekeeping (I’ve visited the Good Housekeeping Institute for work, and it’s legit), New York Magazine, and Consumer Reports.
Food blogs? Amazing! I find so many phenomenal recipe ideas via Kit (our friend who runs the blog, The Kittchen), Food 52, Half Baked Harvest, Jocelyn of Grandbaby Cakes, and Jean Wang, to name just a few.
Overall, the modern media landscape has made me a better and more informed adult (and cook).
How Bad Were My Cooking Skills?
Friends, I didn’t even know the BASICS. Back in April, Bob had to walk me through the steps of chopping an onion and avocado correctly. Not kidding.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed at my culinary skills. In many respects, cooking wasn’t a top priority in my life. As Bob often says, “if it mattered, it would matter.” Cooking just didn’t matter to me in the past.
On the flip side, I do not like being bad at things. Anything, really. When I took up playing the flute in elementary school? I practiced until I was first chair in the band. Lacrosse? I played until I became captain of the team. Singing? I sang until I got the lead in my high school musical. Running? I ran until I placed at first position of the 4×100 relay. We made it to the pre-qualifying races of the state championship. Greek life at college? I volunteered for every committee and ran for top positions until I won every Greek leadership award. You get the point.
Again, I don’t like being bad at anything, but especially the one thing that keeps us all nourished, healthy, and well… happy.
The pandemic turned a lot of things on their head. In fact, my genuine disgust for a lack of cooking skills transformed into an authentic desire, even quest, to be perfect at it. Well, not perfect, but better!
I enjoy it now! Trust me, I am shooketh to the core.
Regaining Confidence in Cooking
Now that the vaccine is (slowly) being disseminated around the world, I worry our cooking habits will change. What if we go back to late-night dinners and fast-casual solutions? I really hope that’s not the case.
Sure, I miss dining out and enjoying a multi-course meal. Bring on the candlesticks and tablecloths. However, I know we will continue this trend of home cooking. Beyond the routine continuing to boost my confidence in cooking, I think it’ll just make me happy.
Mastering the Basics
Like most skills, I found success in starting with a solid foundation of basics. How can you possibly advance forward without knowing where to start? Even simple things like flavor combinations, pantry basics, must-have tools, and cooking times.
Over the past few months, we’ve done a ton of research on the best brands and products to invest in. Sure, we got a lot of great items in our wedding registry. However, there are some “niche” items that I never knew I wanted (or needed). Below, I’m including a scroll of some personal fave new pieces that are helping me when I cook.
Our Go-To Recipes
In the coming weeks, I’m planning to do a post of some of our most cooked recipes in 2020. These include quick, affordable meals to luxe, divine options. While I still have so many recipes to-go, I’m excited to share some recipes that really “wowed” us.
This year, I plan to highlight more posts about cooking tips, tricks, techniques, must-have items, etc. Thank you for your continued support and kindness in this process!