I’m a passionate cook. Whether improvising a meal with whatever is left in the refrigerator or spending hours planning and executing a multicourse meal, the kitchen is my second favorite place to be. What’s my favorite place to be? At the table eating, of course!
People often ask me, “Colin, what can I do to become a good cook?” And I reply that it takes two things. First, you must be able to tell good food from bad. Second, you must be willing to try.
If you cannot appreciate the difference between an overcooked, leathery filet mignon from a perfectly executed rib-eye, it’s probably not worth your time to master grilling technique. If you don’t care if your vegetables are mushy or subtly blanched to crispy perfection, no need to learn about steaming. If you’re happy with boxed macaroni and cheese, why bother to make a roux to start a béchamel that you will make into a Mornay sauce?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, the author emphasizes that the two things needed for mastery of any skills are practice and coaching. To become a better cook you must be willing to try! Cook that steak. You don’t like the flavor? Try more salt, try a marinade, try a different cut. Try again. Is it better? Is it worse? Change something. Try again. Too tough? Cook it less. Too juicy? Cook it more. Like most things in life, unless you are willing to try and fail, you won’t improve.
Iteration is a computer science term that means to repeat a procedure over and over as a way of steadily approaching a solution. In the case of cooking, you iterate towards becoming a better cook by first trying to cook something. The using your sense of what is good food or not good food. If what you made has room for improvement, throw it out and try again. I’ll try new dishes and techniques on my kids. If we don’t like it, we can always order a pizza until I do better the next time. If I’m trying something new for a dinner party, I’ll mix it in with other courses that I know I’ve mastered so there will always be something good on the table if the new dish is a flop. Eventually this iterative process of trying then tasting will lead you to be a better cook.
Stand by for a post on my favorite resources for learning about cooking.