Many view cooking as a boring chore, to be done as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible. Others never cook, living on prepackaged meals, takeout, and restaurants. It has been reported that two-thirds of the American people do not even know how to cook.
I view cooking as an absolute necessity. Real food, the food of our ancestors, does not come in a plastic package you can nuke in a microwave. Sadly, real food rarely exists in restaurants, and when it does, it is extremely expensive.
So, if you are going to enjoy the vital benefits of real food, someone in your family is going to have to cook ,and it might as well be you. But I do not view cooking as a chore. Yes, it can be a lot of work, but it can also be an art form, one that brings health as well as joy, when done well. And the very act of doing it can be a lot of fun!
The key is to be engaged in your cooking.
Some people just go through the motions when they cook, mechanically following the instructions in a recipe, just wanting to get it over with. This attitude leads to boredom, frustration, and usually results in a meal that is mediocre, or worse.
Not me. Every meal is an adventure, every time I cook it is different, and I have many rewarding experiences.
Here is why. Every food item is unique. I mean every single item of real food is somewhat different than any other. In other words, the T-bone steak I cook today is different from the one I cook in a week, even if it is from the same ranch, is cut the same way, and weighs the same. This uniqueness is true of every item of real food. No two grapes are exactly alike. every teaspoon of a particular spice tastes and behaves a bit different, even if it comes from the same bottle. Every individual onion has unique qualities, even from the onions that grew next to it and were harvested at the same time. The same is true of every individual bit of real food.
Nothing remains exactly the same, as change is the nature of life.
The same is true of the inanimate manufactured items we use in cooking. No stove cooks exactly the same, even if they come from the same manufacturing lot. Each oven has its own hot spots, and cooler spots. The size and shape of the oven also has an impact, as does the altitude. Burners, even on the same stove, vary in how much heat they give off, regardless of the setting. Every pan conducts heat a bit differently. No stove is perfectly level, and the tilt of the stove and oven also have an effect.
Climate, moisture, temperature in the kitchen, and other factors we are not aware of, change every time we cook.
This is true not only of appliances, but of barbecue fires. No two fires, even if made in the same barbecue, adjusted the same way, with the same fuel, will be alike, or will behave alike.
Everything matters, and everything is unique. And everything changes as time goes on.
What does this mean in cooking? To me, it means I pay attention to what actually happens when the cooking begins. Every cooking experience is unique. I pay attention to how the food is cooking, to how hot the oven or pan seem to be, to the smells of the cooking food. I make adjustments as I go, trusting my instincts. If something seems to be burning, or a sauce seems too thin, or the smell seems off, I take action. I make little adjustments, sometimes major ones. When you do this enough, there is a message in the sounds of the cooking, the smells, the look of roasting meat, the way the fat sizzles in a pan, that tells you things. This sense can only be developed by experience. But responding effectively to these messages is an art, and extremely enjoyable, exciting, even inspiring.
Now, this does not mean that I spend every moment a dish cooks staring at the dish, waiting for something to happen. For example, if I place a covered pot in a slow oven to cook for three hours, I will not stand by the oven for three hours. But I will peek into the pot once or twice, just too make sure that the simmering is taking place as it should. And I will come into the kitchen a couple of times, to make sure there are no smells or sounds that are out of place. And if all is going well, I know that I have done what I need to do, that meal, that time, that day.
The instructions in my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat, and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, are as detailed as I can efficiently make them, and the recipes have been cooked by me multiple times, with success.
Yet even the most clear, detailed recipe is a road map. You still have to take the journey. If you follow the recipes, you can expect success. And, as you become an experienced cook, and begin to recognize things, you will begin to understand the magical messages of smells, cooking sounds, the look of the food, and you are in for a lot of enjoyment. And your food will get better and better.
Finally, cooking a great meal of real food is one of the best things you can do for your family, your friends, and yourself. The joy of a great meal brings happiness, and the nutrition provided by real food gives health.
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