How To Fall In Love With Cooking (Even If You Don’t Think It’s Possible)
Finding the Courage to Cook
Today, the cookbook industry is booming. According to The New York Times, “sales of print cookbooks grew 24 percent in 2018 over the previous year.” People are obsessed with finding and curating recipes online. They pore over cookbooks and try to perfect recipes. I’ve never been a part of this—until recently.
No one in my family is a foodie, and while my mom took one for the team by cooking for us for years, she finally admitted to hating it. She never taught me how to cook, and eventually, our family either ate takeout or snacks for most meals. I ended up subsisting on mostly gluten and dairy for the duration of my childhood. Needless to say, by the time I moved out of the house, I wasn’t comfortable in the kitchen.
Over the years, my palate widened, but my cooking skills did not. This seemed to come to a head when I started dating my current boyfriend, a Mexican-American whose mother is a genius in the kitchen. One night, he and I decided to make a meal together, and all hell broke loose when he suggested we buy some spices and salad dressing to make the first course. I panicked because this was foreign territory to me—I can’t quite explain why it hit me with such intensity. I liked the flavors he was suggesting, yet I’d never used any of them at home. His attempt to introduce new elements into my kitchen routine made me feel out of control—a trigger for my anxiety. We made it through, though it’s taken me time to gain the confidence to cook. Take it from me: By starting simple and learning the rules before you break them, cooking can become a great source of joy in your life!
Start Simple—One-Pot Meals Are Your Friend!
When I finally moved into my first apartment during college, I began cooking a little bit at home. However, it was far from anything exciting. For almost a year, I made beans and rice with greens or a bit of avocado for every meal. I didn’t know how to make anything else. Plus, it was easy and filling. While I’m extremely glad I know how to make more than this dish now, starting simple helped me ease into a process I was unfamiliar with.
If you also find cooking intimidating, begin with a simple recipe, like an easy pasta dish, a dressed-up sandwich, or a grain bowl. Don’t try to be Ina Garten overnight; this process will take time, and it will look different for each person. It’s also important to start by making something you know you already like—you’re not ready to experiment yet. Try cooking at home a couple of times a week to get into the habit. I would stay away from cooking for others until you’ve come to understand what you like and what flavors excite you the most. Your love for cooking will only grow if you do it for yourself first.
Find Recipes That Work for You
Once you’re used to spending time in your kitchen a couple of times a week, move on to meal planning. Buy yourself a cookbook that fits your dietary needs, tastes, and skill level. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the culinary literature out there, figure out why you’re interested in cooking in the first place. Do you want to save money by cooking at home? Are you having health issues? Did you change your diet?
I started getting serious about cooking when I realized being vegan doesn’t automatically mean being healthy. After discovering I’m also gluten-free and battling stomach issues, I dove headfirst into making meals at home. I didn’t know how to eat healthily and feel satisfied. That’s when cookbooks like Power Plates and Vegan Yack Attack (not all extremely healthy, but lots of food for thought) came in handy.
I also recommend Pinterest for discovering new recipes with your favorite foods. I have continuously used the visual discovery platform to find almost all of my meals. It’s as easy as typing in “Spinach Sweet Potato Vegan” and scrolling through some of the results to find a yummy dinner with the ingredients I have in my fridge.
After finding a few cookbooks and online recipes that excite you, make a meal plan for your week, including a few of those dishes. Again, start small by making one or two new recipes per week, and grow your recipe index steadily from there.
Channel Your Inner Chef—It’s Time to Experiment!
This process may take weeks, months, or even years. It truly depends on how much you want to commit to growing your repertoire at any given time. For me, it took a year of following recipes in my cookbooks before I felt as though I could challenge myself.
You can still follow the recipe to a tee, but this is the stage where you’ll want to push yourself a little further and experiment. Branching out begins with minor changes, like substituting ingredients or adding in your favorite spices. While this phase of your cooking journey may seem scary, hopefully, you feel excited, too.
The more time you spend in the kitchen, gathering information about what you like and don’t like, the more you’ll enjoy cooking. Soon you’ll know what to stock up on and what isn’t worth your money. You’ll discover what you want to make from scratch and what is worth buying at the store.
There’s no way to know for sure what your cooking journey will look like, though I can guarantee you will surprise yourself! I sure did. Even though I’m far from declaring myself a chef, I feel empowered by what I’ve learned in the kitchen. I take pride in creating nourishing, healthy meals. Cooking is an act of self-care and an act of love. I can cook food for myself and others, and that is amazing.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.