I have polled some friends and here are the things I have heard, along with my own previous anxiety, about cooking.
What makes you anxious about cooking?
- Cooking for chef friends or people that are known as great cooks (my personal fear)
- ADVICE: Ask ANY Chef. They really don’t care as much as you think. They’re happy to not be the one cooking.
- Cooking holiday meals for family or other influential or intimidating people — e.g. new in-laws, bosses
- ADVICE: Relax. Give yourself plenty of time to prep. If you have a chance to make the different dishes in advance, you can get comfortable with the meal you are making and make slight changes in the recipes if needed. Don’t choose anything overly complicated. Do all the shopping at least one day before but 2 days is ideal.
- Spices! I’m not a very adventurous eater so I’m terrible at understanding what makes flavor profiles pop.
- Choose a dish and look up 3 different sources for the recipe online. Compare them and you will see the similarities in them.
- Choose a type of cuisine and look up several of its most familiar dishes and compare the like-kind seasonings used. You will begin to see the patterns and commonalities that will help you to begin to understand the flavor profiles. Eventually, you will begin to experiment with the fundamental flavors in your own dishes.
- Time Commitment. If there are more than 4 ingredients I’ll be in the kitchen forever.
- Learn a few basic kitchen skills to quicken up your meals. Knife skills is a big one. I still suck at this but I’m definitely better than I was.
- Get everything together and prepped before you jump to the directions section of a recipe or before you start cooking your own take.
- Check out One Pot Meal recipes or InstaPot cooking recipes. If you are impatient or pressed for time, This is a big help.
Many of the great cooks I know have sweet stories about how they spent quality time in the kitchens with their grandmothers, mothers or other family cooks. They retell stories of patience, bonding and love in the kitchen over well-loved, passed down recipes. This was not my story.
MY COOKING JOURNEY
I grew up in a household with a very impatient Filipino mom who cooked for the sake of feeding her family, not because she enjoyed it. My mom was in a unique situation in which she cooked a variety of cuisines of Filipino and Arabic meals with the occasional American meal thrown in. It’s a LONG STORY that I will share in my LIFE posts one day.
My mother had many expectations thrust upon her when it came to cooking. My step-grandmother (Syrian) was a phenomenal cook who spent days with her sisters cooking together to prepare holiday feasts. I’m not certain my grandmother projected these expectations onto my mother but I know she earnestly tried to become at least capable of cooking many traditional dishes that my father enjoyed. She actually did quite well but I’m not sure she thinks so. She also cooked her own traditional Filipino foods at home which I mostly like, except for the few dishes which many of my fellow Filipino-American counterparts agree upon.
I ate really well as a kid but my mother HATED me being anywhere near the kitchen when she was cooking. I was always in the way so I stayed away. Occasionally I hung out at the island in my seat and watched but inevitably I would start asking too many questions and annoy my mom. This led to my anxiety once I started my own family since I did not know how to cook. So to all of you who were in my same boat, I get you!
As a young mom and newly married, young, 20-something woman, I made my fair share of inedible meals but once I started to take it seriously, I overcame most of my anxiety around cooking. I had to determine the things that made cooking agitating for me.
HOW I LEARNED TO COOK
Kitchen skills – I had none. I made the decision to start small in the form of baby food. Babies had very few expectations and couldn’t voice an opinion. They needed bland, easy to digest foods and mostly it required very little effort. Perfect start. Arriana was off to a good healthy, solid food beginning with a basic menu of pureed cashews for protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables that were easy and fun for her to eat.
Next, I fumbled around with the 3 cookbooks I was given as a wedding present from my husband’s family. These were fundamental in the early days of bad cooking. I’ll never forget them. One was a cookbook of American food, one of food from a Denver restaurant and another of California cuisine. They were all so foreign to me. I would try my damndest to make these dishes but they never tasted good to me. My poor husband will tell you that those were dark days in the first few years.
From here, I moved on to what was more familiar to me. I thought if I was familiar with the food I was trying to cook then at the very least, I would be able to decipher what it was SUPPOSED to taste like. I would call my mom and ask her to briefly tell me how to cook my favorite Filipino staples. Not being in the same room with her and only requiring 5 minutes of her time was a real game changer for her culinary patience. I then found an old Arabic cookbook that was created by the women in my L.A. church, St. Nicholas Cathedral. This was filled with MORE familiar foods.
As I gained a little more confidence, I could decipher flavors and ingredients and became comfortable in branching out into more generic family meals like pastas, potatoes, mac and cheese, meatloaf, etc.
I was lucky to grow up with parents who loved to dine out at nice restaurants. Being an only child, I got to benefit from it. This has been a big bonus in my culinary journey because I was exposed to so many different kinds of cuisines.
TAKEAWAYS FOR YOU
- Start with what you are familiar with. Familiarity breeds less anxiety.
- Get adventurous with eating out and try new things slowly. Go with friends who know. They will help steer you in the right direction.
- Be curious. Ask questions about what you are eating. Look up recipes that sound interesting and play. Let cooking be unimportant.
- Get organized. This will allow you to focus on the cooking instead of the tasks to prep for cooking.
I hope my experience has been helpful. How did you learn to cook? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your story.