Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The incentive to get started, learn, improve.

I got a request the other day, a person asked me for some advice when it came to the incentive to get started with cooking, to maintain the drive to make home cooked meals, and to improve his skills. I found the questions interesting. This wasn't "help me make scrambled eggs", nor was it "how do I make my fish more interesting". This was something else, and I don't shy away from the chance to get philosophical on a subject I enjoy. It could be toys, comics, or in this case cooking. His questions were more a string of thoughts around his current state as a beginner. And keep in mind, in many ways, I consider myself a beginner too. Like I've said recently, I've still a lot to learn. And even though there are some recipes I master to perfection, nothing is good to the point where it can't be improved. 

This fellow amateur asked me for advice when it came to actually getting motivated to cook his own meals. Maintaining the discipline, and how to improve. He also asked for some of my personal routines for keeping the interest up. 
Read on for my answers. 

Learning to cook is hard - it’s like going to the gym, everyone wants to do it, but only a few follow through.
Excellent said by my fellow amateur chef. It's hard in the way that it takes an effort to actually do it. But the process of cooking a nice meal, for yourself and others, isn't hard at all.

Just tell yourself to avoid all pre-fabricated dinner. All fast food. It's infinitely better, and usually cheaper to just make it from the bottom yourself. A good burger... Not hard at all. Pizza? Takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it's simple. Your own tomato sauce, or any sauce. Your own fries..
I don't really have a discipline problem, it's more the joy of a good result that drives me. Personally, I don't always find the need to make something from the bottom, but it helps to document it and show it to others. 

Set yourself goals. For instance invite over friends, or someone special for dinner. Suddenly you have to live up to not only your own, but someone else's expectations and tastes.
My efforts are always supported by success, and at the same time, I'm never put down by a failed meal. I chalk those ones up as practice.
Not having the right tools, the right environment for cooking is what sabotages my cooking. For instance, I've been without a proper kitchen for a couple of weeks, and it's completely messed up my routines. And vice versa: having good tools makes it a lot more enjoyable to not only cook, but also to get started in the first place.

Personal routines:
We all have stuff we prefer. I'm a sucker for chicken and eggs. Their neutral taste makes for a great base, and you can pretty much make it taste anything you want. Be careful with mixing different spices, but don't be scared of using something that tastes a lot, or making something that has a powerful taste.
I'm also a fan of trying something new every time you make a dish you've done before. Does it always succeed? Certainly not, but you don't think the various dishes were dreamed up, do you? No, they were a product of experimenting.
And finally, it helps having a clean kitchen. When ever I've cleaned up, and washed all the kitchen tools, I really find myself wanting to get started on something again.

I had initially planned for a pre-fabricated meal today. A frozen pizza or something. But this whole thing led me to try something new, right away. 
This is the mango. It's one of the best tasting anythings in the everywhere. It literally tastes as sex feels. It's the bacon of fruits. It's the Optimus Prime of things that grow on trees. 
But make no mistake about it. Everything, even the Mango can be improved.
By adding something on the side? Sure,  add ice cream, whipped cream, frozen kiwis, strawberry sauce, a nice lemonade, a fruity wine, etc..
But let's try something different. 
The mango tastes wonderful, but the pepper makes it apparent that the fruit has a very mild taste. The pepper ends up contrasting this, giving it an edge. Just enough to make it interesting. Better? No, at best this was a side-grade. But I can see a use for this combination. 
This is taking it too far. The French mustard is extremely strong, and completely overshadows the mango. The texture of the mango also clashes with the vinegar tastes of the mustard and ketchup. Fail? Very much so. But at least now we know...

No comments: