If you were never taught to cook, you might wonder how to progress from someone who just eats meals others make to being a mature cook. New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman shares how cooking gave him purpose and the process of learning to cook.Photo by Craig Paterson
The excerpt from Bittman’s book is more about how he developed confidence and found purpose through necessity. With a new child and his wife in medical school, Bittman had to take on the role of a cook. He writes:
I was cooking daily, and it lent my life a purpose it hadn’t had before. […]Do you see? I had to cook; I had taken it on as a responsibility, maybe the first I really owned, the first I generated myself, the first that wasn’t imposed by others. This was becoming my work; I was getting on-the-job training. In part it was sheer joy, and I was lucky as hell: There was urgency and necessity — there was no way around it.
He says he went through what he believes are the four stages of teaching yourself to cook:
- First you follow recipes slavishly (learning how to follow a recipe first).
- In stage two, you learn your preferences and start to compare and synthesise some of the recipes you’ve learned. If you’re dedicated, he says, you consult two or more cookbooks before starting anything.
- Stage three is when you start to seek out new things: new cookbook authors, new ingredients, or similar flavour profiles that match what’s become your style. Some people start to bring cookbooks to bed for inspiration at this stage, relying less on recipes.
- Finally, in stage four, you’re a mature cook with a fully developed repertoire and who can start cooking without knowing what the final dish will look like.
Learning to cook isn’t that hard, he says. And you don’t need to teach your children to cook, really, because if you’re cooking, they’re learning. If you have the time, read the full essay, because it’s a great piece on both food and becoming who you are.
How Cooking Gave Me Purpose [Salon]