How to cook without a net: Watch, practice, learn

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People used to know how to feed themselves. Presently, not so much.

Sure, we can follow recipes like a chimp and act like Gordon Ramsay, the shouting, often profane TV chef; but when it comes to turning with breezy insouciance the contents of our fridge into something delectable, we seem to have lost our collective woo. Too many of us, raised without proper culinary learning, find ourselves with nary a clue as to how to manage the kitchenly arts.

Let’s see if we can at least start to fix that.

The steps you take

First, forget all your troubles. Second, c’mon. Get happy. Third, remember that cooking, like nearly everything else, is learned behavior. It’s not just following recipes.

If you haven’t had the good fortune to have learned from a culinary expert — a beloved parent or grandparent, for example, who could cook the pants off the aforementioned Chef Ramsay — don’t take this the wrong way, but, it’s conceivable you simply may not know what you’re doing. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t expect success, much less perfection.

To become a good or even great cook, then, treat the task like any other subject: Study. Practice. And learn from both your mistakes and your successes.

My advice is to start with foods you know. It’s why it’s easier for an English speaker to learn French than, say, Welsh, because French is more familiar because of its similarity to English. The English word “student,” for example, is “etudiante” in French, whereas in Welsh it’s “myfyriwr.”

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