Go back to the Introduction if you want to make sure you read every post in this series in the right order.
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You’re probably thinking “I’ve come here to learn how to get my kid to try any food and here I am reading about cooking”. The truth is, without you cooking, there wouldn’t be much food to eat anyway, so might as well learn to cook it, right?
Cooking happens to be my passion from before I had kids.
I think people get the wrong idea about cooking for their kids or cooking in general, because they think it’s too complicated.
Over the years, after looking at recipes and reading cookbooks, I’ve drilled down cooking to these basic steps:
- Choose your ingredient(s) and prepping them for cooking
- Choose your basic cooking techniques
- Choose what combo(s) work best in terms of taste and flavour
You could go with only the first two, but the purpose here is to get your child to appreciate food that tastes good and that you will want to eat alongside him because it’s tasty for you too.
When it comes to ways to learn about these 3 steps, there are a couple of options for you to explore.
A cooking school
These ones are expensive. If I didn’t have any kids and more money, I would have done one.
The advantage is you get one on one teaching, hands on, from a professional who is accredited to teach the subject and who knows more about it than your average person.
At the end, some of the programs will also give you a diploma to certify completion of the courses and give you proof in case you ever want to consider a career in the field.
Some classes are available online, and this is a great feature in case you have other commitments like kids, job and so on.
The magic duo – Google and Youtube
There are so many content creators out there, especially in the food niche, that can really teach you things, from the basics to the more advanced. Plus, content online is mostly free to enjoy, so another win.
If you search for “how to cook (ingredient)” the number of results is overwhelming. The sheer quantity of resources at your fingertips doesn’t, however, indicate quality. So it is worth thinking about this aspect before you blame yourself if a meal doesn’t turn out right.
I’m not mentioning Pinterest, even though I myself am a content creator and get most of my traffic from there. The platform I find is too much “bookmarking” and less “making”. I find myself going down the rabbit hole and not really clicking through on anything in the end.
This is by far my favorite way to learn. I’m the Hermione Granger of cookbooks.
They’re at the intersection of the previous two: not expensive, but still a professional way to learn, assuming you know how to follow the author’s method.
The amount of books on the topic of cooking can put you off from buying anything, or if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop buying them, looking for even more recipes to try. Especially if you happen to fall in love with an author’s style. For example, if you like Jamie Oliver, you might end up wanting to buy everything that he published or will publish in the future.
What I suggest, if you want to invest in a book that covers as many ingredients as possible, is a book called How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It is mostly suited for the American market because it has imperial measurements. If that is not an obstacle for you, I’d say go for it. It can lay a good foundation if you start with little knowledge about the subject.
I think, at the end of the day, it also comes down to the type of person that you are and how you are most comfortable learning:
- Are you a visual person, who learns quicker from videos or with step-by-step images?
- Is text enough for you? Are you comfortable just with following instructions?
- Are you a more hands-on type of person who would rather learn by doing?
Just some food for thought. Cookbooks might not work for some, while others will have no problem in watching endless Youtube videos and remember everything they saw.
And the cool thing about all these resources: you can use them for inspiration, not just for following some quantities in a recipe.
For example, I had a Yotam Ottolenghi book that I only used for one of the best pizza recipes I ever made. I then sold the book because I couldn’t for the life of me get myself to cook anything more from it. It wasn’t speaking to my style, I guess.
Of all the books that changed my perspective on cooking, the most influential one was Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. She condensed everything a novice cook needs to know about the subject into these 4 elements.
Courtesy of Wendy MacNaughton
If you can master these 4 things in the kitchen, you could be off to a great start going forward. She doesn’t touch too much upon combinations and food pairings for flavour though, but there are books that talk about that too, like The Flavour Bible or The Flavour Thesaurus. I have both and they really make you think about why certain ingredients work together and get you to try food combinations that you didn’t think about before. I find them useful whenever I have bits and bobs around the house and in the fridge and I am not sure if they would work together in a dish.
So if I was to have any chance with my cooking good food, I would have to learn
- how to add salt (without adding it in powder form because kids aren’t allowed to have much of it to begin with)
- how to add an acid and
- how to use fat and cook using heat, in the right way.
Because, yes, there is a right way to cook things, and there’s a wrong way to do it. And sometimes, the balance between the two is a matter of minutes. Or a pinch of something.
I mentioned that my kids have started to refuse vegetables recently and that is how I decided I need to tackle these first, just to see how I would get on and what I needed to improve. I shared some of the journey over on Instagram, where I did a Cook more Veg challenge and tried a more general approach.
Beyond boiling, steaming and maybe roasting, I wasn’t doing much in terms of cooking them in different ways. I wasn’t putting in the effort as much as with other strategies I listed so far. I role modelled when I could, tried the division of responsibility as much as I could, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.
So I had to take my cooking up a notch. But since I couldn’t learn everything at once due to lack of time, I decided to focus on broccoli to start with.
I wasn’t the type of person to enjoy broccoli. I didn’t grow up eating it and I wasn’t used to having it in the fridge. But I decided to give it a try, just to prove to myself something but also see whether I could enjoy it alongside my kids or just drop the idea and move on to the next vegetable.