How To Become a Great Cook

CaptureI like to think that I am a good cook. I cook pretty much every day. I like the process. It’s total relaxation.  

I do remember standing in the kitchen at home with Mum when I was wee and being allowed to lick the cream off the whisk. I also remember making jam pies with left over pastry and burning my mouth when they were done because I just couldn’t wait…

This all stood me in good stead. When I was at university, being a bit shy and introverted, and having little energy for making myself heard over a nightclub PA system, asking a fellow undergrad “would you like to come round for dinner” seemed like it was worth a try. It was. And there was dinner.

I developed a repertoire by following recipes. But I hated following recipes – it wasn’t the constraint – that was OK, I did need to learn. It was just that reading about something that is fundamentally about action didn’t really work for me.

And then I moved house.

And I didn’t have a kitchen for three months. So I didn’t cook. But I read cookery books. In bed. Yes. But I read them in a different way. I wasn’t looking for advice or help or ideas, I was reading them as background. As research. As a means to fill gaps in my knowledge. Not as a means to put dinner on the table.  

And then the kitchen was built and I like to think my pots and pans wizardry hit a new level. A higher level. Since that day, I have never followed a recipe, although I continued to read hundreds of them.  

The recipes had adopted a different role. Whereas once they had been of tactical use (get the food on the table), now they became more strategic (like reading research papers when you “do” science).

On this theme, I have a client who is part of an online tutor group. I am not the tutor. The topic doesn’t matter. There are 4 or 5 hours of tutoring every week. The content is good. But the students don’t seem to be flying. I wonder if that is because mother bird spends too much time telling the baby birds how to fly rather than helping them believe they can fly. And the baby birds spend too much time listening instead of getting ready to fly. They get fired up…this time we’ll fly, we will!

But they don’t seem to.

Maybe because the relationship is parent to child. The parent hand holds and guides. The child senses, maybe unconsciously, that they are a child and by definition, not yet ready to fly.

Like me when cooking from recipes. They educated me, but they also held me back.

They gave me facts and information, but taken individually, they didn’t help me to fly.

Sometimes the pupil can be dependent on the teacher for security. Sometimes the teacher can be dependent on the pupil for validation.

There’s nothing wrong with either role, but they must both be time limited. There comes a point when all baby birds have to fly.

3 Responses to How To Become a Great Cook

  1. David Kershaw January 14, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    I wish you and all the readers of Weekly Pearls A Happy & Prosperous New Year.
    I enjoy the content of your Pearls and the way you get the messages across, keep up the good work

  2. Keith Plumb January 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm #


    I have to agree about not cooking from recipes. If you follow the recipe you have to have all of the ingredients. If you know how to cook you use any appropriate ingredients.

    I always say I only have one recipe. Find out what’s in the cupboard/fridge and make a meal. Far more fun.


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