Cooking is a skill or an art that we develop, and that comes in handy throughout one’s life. A skill that has so many benefits that it is rightly called a life skill. It is empowering oneself in mastering the art of living.
People all over the world are recognizing and accepting that ‘Health Is Wealth’ and ‘The Best Investment A Person Can Make Is In One’s Own Health’.
The health of a person is directly linked to his food and exercise habits. A healthy and balanced meal has to be a top priority item in everyone’s life.
What is the best way to get hold of a healthy and balanced meal?
There is no better way than to prepare it ourselves in our home with ingredients we choose.
Does it sound impossible? Don’t worry. It is not difficult. So many people have done it and you can do it too.
One can learn to cook at any age in life. However, the sooner you learn, the better it is for you because you can take charge of your nutritional needs sooner.
Cooking is not rocket science. It is an act of combining, mixing, and heating ingredients to come up with an edible outcome.
The key here being the ingredients, the proportions, and the methodology adopted.
It can be as simple as just combining 3-4 ingredients together – making a kale walnut salad with chopped kale leaves and walnuts and salt and pepper.
It can also be as complex as making classic eclairs at home which takes an experienced baker a couple of hours of effort.
Start it easy and slow and you will see how you build confidence as you go.
To learn to cook, one needs the right motivation to do so. And, what is that motivation?
When you know how to cook, you depend less on others or store bought food for survival.
Because you will know precisely the ingredients that you have used and put into the recipe and meal.
You can increase or decrease a certain ingredient as per your choice. The quality and quantity of food that you eat is completely your choice.
You save money by buying ingredients that are reusable and storing them for your next meal.
Food made with love may not taste like restaurant food but definitely tastes like a home-cooked meal. Remember mother’s home cooking?
Once you know why you want to learn to cook, the next step is to make sure you have the environment for it.
Get the basic tools that you will require to cook at home. Set up your kitchen with some cutlery, pots and pans, knives and cutting board, etc.
Remember that all this is to inspire you to start. Once you get a hang of it and start valuing the benefits, you will cook your meal without any extra paraphernalia.
This is a journey that you will never regret embarking on. It is a developed ability that will remain with you throughout your life.
It makes you more confident about dealing with situations and life. The joy of taking charge of one’s own health is beyond words. Each meal becomes a labor of love and that will work its magic on one’s health.
So, let the journey begin!
And, once you learn the skill, make sure you inspire some more people to follow suit. May the tribe grow!
Learning To Cook For Beginners
When you learn to cook, you can either start by attending a cooking class or by reading a recipe book and following it, or by trusting your instincts and adopting a trial and error method.
If you have been around while your parents or family were cooking, you will know the fundamentals of cooking. Or if you don’t, then just learn to cook basics first.
Learning to cook for beginners can commence with learning to distinguish between foods that you eat raw, half cooked, and fully cooked.
When you make a salad, you can throw in all ingredients that you eat raw and add some seasoning to it.
When you cook your meat, it is important that the meat is fully cooked so that your body can digest it and it gets rid of the harmful bacteria in the meat.
How to learn to cook for beginners is learning also not to overcook or burn a dish.
It is a good idea to keep handy a chart which tells you the time required to cook different items. That way you don’t go wrong or spoil a dish.
In the beginning, it is important to follow these time charts religiously because a spoilt dish can dampen your spirit and play havoc with your determination to cook.
However, do not be too hard on yourself. It is okay if the first dishes don’t taste the way you wanted them to taste.
We don’t master anything without making our mistakes and learning from them.
Make note of what you think went wrong and work on them the next time.
Like any art, the art of cooking also requires patience, persistence and perseverance.
Learn to prioritize the different aspects of food.
When you eat out, you may judge the food based on taste, presentation, value for money, etc.
Home-cooked food shifts the focus to health benefits and taste. That doesn’t mean other aspects are ignored.
A home-cooked meal can be a tasty, well-presented, and satisfying meal that provides high value for money and comes with an added health benefit too.
As a beginner, keep it simple. Don’t try too hard. Make simple soups or salads to begin with. You can also start by preparing one meal at home. Follow recipes or go with your gut feeling.
To begin with, let us concentrate on choosing healthy ingredients and making it tasty.
Don’t try any overpowering flavors. It is always a good idea to start by adding small quantities and then adding little by little until you get the required flavors. You can always add more flavors. Taking it away if it becomes overpowering, is difficult. You don’t want to end up with a salty soup or a salad that has more pepper than salad leaves.
Note down some of the tips and tricks of cooking that comes in very handy.
Adding a pinch of salt while you saute onion can help in caramelizing the onions better and faster. Or, instead of a peeler or a knife, use a spoon to peel ginger for easy peeling. These tips come very usefully when you begin to cook.
Everyone starts as a novice. But no one remains one. Keep cooking your way up the ladder.
How To Cook Without A Book
Cooking books in the marketplace are in the thousands and widespread.
There are also numerous videos on the internet which can teach you to make dishes from around the world.
We are living in such a connected world today that it is not difficult for us to look up a dish that is made in a country in North and South America or Asia or Africa. Even the ingredients can be sourced from a local supermarket.
But, how to cook without a book? Well, let us begin and see where it goes.
To make it easier, let us break it into carbohydrates, protein, and raw or sauteed veggies. This is just an example.
Every cuisine has its own way of incorporating all the required elements into the diet. Just follow whatever that is.
Then, collect all the ingredients required for the meal and keep it ready. Make sure you have all the ingredients handy before you turn on the stove. It is better to avoid multitasking here. You don’t want to divert your attention from the main task of cooking once you start it.
One step at a time, tackle the dish. Remember to taste as you proceed.
It is all about being mindful of what you are doing and how you are doing.
One-pot meals are also great ideas for beginners. And if you are cooking without a book, you cannot go wrong with these one-pot meals.
Add all the ingredients into a pot and let it boil and cook. Throw in the seasoning towards the end when all the ingredients are almost cooked and simmer it for some more time and enjoy your one-pot meal.
It leaves less mess in the kitchen, fewer dirty dishes in the sink, and a healthy nutritious meal can be served right from a hot pot.
A lot of recipes were handed down across generations without a cookbook. The key there was to cook together and learn the techniques. When people from different generations cooked together, they passed on the family traditions and cooking secrets from one generation to another.
No wonder, we remember and cherish the taste of food eaten at family-owned small restaurants than the chain restaurants.
When you start to cook and develop an interest in cooking, it is a good idea to spend some time with family members who have been cooking for years in their kitchen.
Family members such such as our grandparents, our parents, even uncles and aunts.
The treasure of the knowledge they have from years of cooking cannot be gained from reading a cookbook. It is something you imbibe by being in the kitchen with them. Those tips and learnings last you a lifetime.
Cooking Without Recipes
Though cooking with a recipe seems more comfortable and assuring, cooking without recipes can be fun and adventurous.
If you don’t feel confident enough yet, then start by tweaking the mixture a little, by replacing one ingredient with another, or varying the seasoning a little. You will soon end up with a version of the formula that you seem to enjoy even better than the original one.
Taste is such a personal choice and you are the best person to know how you like your food.
Earlier, when you got your food from outside, you had limited choices to tweak the food as per your taste. Now, it is up to you to decide how you want your food.
So, whenever you feel comfortable enough, try a hand at free cooking.
Heat the wok, throw in some oil, followed by your favorite vegetables or meat, and seasonings, and let the aroma fill your home.
Make sure you never leave the food unattended and turn the heat off when you see that the ingredients are cooked.
Serve it on a beautiful plate with some sparkling water or wine to celebrate your independence from limited cooking abilities.
When you start cooking without a recipe, experiment with it several times before you call over people to share your food.
Once you start cooking without looking at a recipe book, you can look straight at the ingredients and come up with a plan. You will utilize the ingredients that are already available at home rather than running to the grocery store each time you want to cook.
However, don’t feel compelled to do so until you feel comfortable. Or, start with a dish you have developed, and then if you think of a deviation from it, follow that.
We all like to listen to speeches made by people when it is well-rehearsed and then delivered. But, sometimes when people speak extempore or improvise their address as they go along, those words can connect more with us. We probably applaud and appreciate that speaker more than the one who delivered the well-rehearsed speech.
Similarly, we always appreciate a little tweak or improvisation that a cook does to a dish that we already know the taste of.
In restaurants, they have to strictly follow a certain recipe because they have to recreate tastes for their customers.
But at home, since there is no such restriction, it is good to improvise and be extempore.
You will learn to fall in love with healthy home cooked food.
Learning To Cook At Home
What do you need to learn to cook at home?
Well, you need a plan. Plan about what you want to cook.
Then you need the ingredients, pots & pans, and a stove or an oven.
If you have all of that in place, you need one secret mantra. And that secret mantra is “ I can cook”. Keep chanting this all throughout and see how it works.
Remember, that everyone started at some point to reach where they are now, and today is your starting point. Cooking in home setting is the perfect place to begin this journey.
It is a good idea to stock up your home with the non-perishables so you don’t have to forgo the idea of cooking for lack of ingredients.
Grab some fresh produce from your supermarket or farmers market on your way back from work, and you are all set to start.
Sharpen your knives, put on the apron and ignite the flame. Let the magic begin!
Every cuisine has some easy dishes to start with. It could be an omelet, or boiled potatoes, or soup. It is always a good idea to start with them.
If it is a taste that you are familiar with, then it will be easier for you to tweak it during the process.
Also, if you have grown up seeing that dish being prepared, you feel more confident about trying it out. You may just kindle your memory when you start making it. You may even feel the presence of those people when you start cooking it. It is a wonderful way to connect to your roots and from where you came.
The taste of a dish depends on the flavors that go into making the dish.
Some salt, pepper, or chili flakes can do wonders to a plain boiled potato or a bowl of soup. By squeezing some lime or adding some vinegar, you can alter the taste of a dish completely.
If you are following a recipe to cook a dish then follow the instructions carefully until you feel confident about making any variations. Once you are comfortable cooking, it is a good idea to try out things without a recipe book. That increases your confidence in cooking.
You will slowly figure out that you can throw in some ingredients and add some flavors and make a healthy and wholesome meal to suit your taste glands.
If you are cooking without recipes, then, as we discussed earlier, you will come to an understanding of the measure of ingredients and the overpowering taste of each ingredient by a trial and error method and you will master it in no time.
Home-cooked meals will leave you healthy and wealthy. While learning to cook at home is important for health, it also saves you a lot of money.
The cost of a boxed meal that comes from a restaurant is way costlier than the same meal prepared at home.
The health benefits also make sure you spend less on your doctor visits and health insurances.
The benefits of learning to cook at home are beyond doubt.
Learning To Cook Healthy
Learning to cook healthy is as important as learning to cook.
Today, a majority of chronic diseases are attributed to poor eating habits. Most of these people have been either eating the wrong food. Eating unhealthy food for over a period of time results in cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, etc.
Prevention is better than cure! And as far as these lifestyle-related diseases are concerned, the prevention for most of them lies in eating healthy food.
Right from childhood, it is important to understand and appreciate healthy, home-cooked food.
Healthy eating and healthy cooking are not difficult. It is not even boring or tasteless. All it requires is a shift in attitude.
When a family decides to choose healthy ingredients (like organically grown vegetables or free-range animal products), and a healthy way of cooking (more steamed and baked products and less fried oily products), they see the impact on the health and fitness of every family member.
Learning to cook healthy is simply a choice with which to begin. If you are convinced about the benefits of healthy eating, you will find a thousand interesting recipes to try out with absolutely no compromise on taste or variety.
Supermarkets around the world carry ingredients that are healthy and clean.
If we look back at what and how our grandparents and great grandparents cooked and ate, we will discover that they knew how to cook healthy.
Learning to cook healthy can be implemented in stages if you find it too difficult.
For example, if you are used to eating fried food with a lot of red meat and not many vegetables, rather than completely shifting it to grilled or baked food with a lot of colored vegetables (which is our end goal), you could reduce the quality of fried meat and introduce a bowl of salad, to begin with.
Make sure the salad is tasty with good quality dressings and toppings. Once you get used to the taste of the salad, the fried meat can be replaced with grilled lean meat.
Similarly, if you eat fried food every day, try to reduce it to every other day, and then to once a week or so.
Learning to cook and eat healthy meals at home can become a fun family activity if everyone is involved in it.
Right from sourcing the ingredients from the local farmers market to deciding the menu for the week and then being involved in chopping, mixing, grilling, etc., can teach the children in the home about healthy eating and healthy cooking.
An early awareness in them about healthy eating and healthy cooking can prevent many lifestyle-related illnesses in them in the future.
Learning to cook healthy involves:
- Using whole grains
- Including a lot of plant-based products
- Picking up grass-fed and farm-raised dairy and animal products
- Being mindful of the quantity and quality of oil used for cooking
- Choosing the right method for cooking (roasting, grilling, braising, etc.)
If learning to cook healthy is a new way of life for you, then make sure you plan ahead. That will help you stay calm and feel prepared.
Cooking, eating healthy, and staying fit is something human beings have been doing for generations and we can all do it. It is a preferred decision that we should make today for our health.
Today’s choice becomes tomorrow’s habit. So if we choose to eat healthy today, healthy eating becomes our habit in the future.
Contributors: Kazim Abasali and Deepa Kadavakat