Eleanor Roosevelt is attributed as saying, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” This quote could be inspiring in many aspects of living, but I found it to be especially encouraging when I was learning to cook.
One of the reasons I was hesitant to cook at home was I didn’t feel like I could make restaurant-quality food (which, I couldn’t at that point). Why would I eat at home when I could eat something better at a restaurant? It wasn’t until I quit my job to go to graduate school that I had to pinch pennies and stop eating out most every night. To keep from getting incredibly bored eating poor to mediocre dinners, I embraced Eleanor’s words and began trying to do the things I didn’t think I could do.
How did I do it?
- Become comfortable with failure. If you have a misguided notion that you’re going to get every recipe and every cooking skill right the first time you attempt it, your pride is going to take a hit. (Mine did. This was a lesson learned the hard way.) Cooking isn’t difficult, but many skills require practice.
- Identify your favorite meals you’ve had in restaurants. Recreating these meals at home is a good place to begin your journey. With just a couple tries, you’ll probably discover you can make better versions of these meals.
- Hang out with the recipes. Does the idea of making a souffle terrify you? Carry the recipe around with you for a week. Study it. Read it so many times you can recite it from memory. When you know what to expect, the process is less frightening.
- Research. Whether you get your hands on a copy of Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques or watch videos on YouTube, it’s always a good idea to see how someone else tackles a similar method. Even if your style is a little different, seeing another person do what you want to do reduces a lot of fears.
- Have a backup plan. Keep a loaf of bread and sandwich meat in the refrigerator for those nights when what you attempt is grossly inedible. You’ll feel a lot less pressure when you know you and your family won’t go hungry.
Let go of your fears and learn to clarify butter, trim a rack of lamb, emulsify a Hollandaise sauce, bake a loaf of bread, cut the spine out of a whole chicken, butcher a tenderloin into fillets, bread and fry tofu, or whatever it is you are currently afraid to do. You can do it, you should do it, even if you think you cannot.