How often have we asked ourselves: “what am I going to eat?” (Basically, every single meal, am I right?) We’re busy at work or doing errands when suddenly, the hunger pangs hit. Nowadays, we have a kajillion options like restaurants, prepared foods in grocery stores, and food delivery apps. We don’t even need to think “what am I going to cook today?” because we know someone else is going to do it.
It’s completely understandable that we turn to these convenient options. Socially, we are dedicating more time at work. In the tech industry, there’s a belief that if we simplify the small tasks like meal preparation, then employees can focus on their work. We’re also busier these days than ever. Balancing work, kids’ events, elderly parent care, and our own health has pushed cooking-at-home lower on the priority list.
As a result, we, as a nation, are cooking less than ever. In fact, Americans are cooking less than half as much since the 60’s and the US cook at home less than most countries in the world!
While I don’t think it’s practical to cook every single day, I do believe that we can more regularly ask ourselves “how can I incorporate cooking into my routine?” We’re moving so far away from this basic skill of survival and relying on a push of a button to get a meal. This is the biggest irony of our generation: as we get more connected with technology, we become less effective with basic human skills. Being able to take care of ourselves is such an important tool.
Luckily, there are simple ways to ease into cooking at home. For anyone starting out who may be intimidated by the idea of cooking, here are a few tips to help:
- Start small: You don’t have to cook a 10-course Michelin-star meal. Whether it’s soup or a grilled chicken salad, start with simple recipes that you can whip up in 15 minutes. Also, start with a simple goal of cooking one meal a week, and work upward from there.
- Practice, practice, practice: The idea of being in the kitchen can be scary! But just like any skill you’ve learned, cooking takes practice. Rumor has it that Thomas Keller of French Laundry did not start out with formal training. Instead, he started as a dishwasher and worked his way up in the kitchen. Now, he’s a ridiculously successful chef. His secret? Practice.
- Use simple ingredients: The basics of cooking don’t require a ton of ingredients. There are staples you can have on hand that add tons of flavor to your meal. These include salt, pepper, garlic, onions, and butter/oil. There is nothing like the fragrant smell of caramelized onions!
- Take time beforehand to get ready: Take a few minutes to read the recipe over a couple of times so you know the steps. Prep all your ingredients before you actually do any cooking. It’ll reduce context switching and help you focus on one task at a time.
- Stay calm: Know that if you mess up, it’s all fixable. Don’t give up. Simply, throw the burnt dish in the trash and start over. Have fun with it too. Laugh at your mistake and take it as a learning moment. Remember, it’s all practice!
I hope that you feel a spark of inspiration to cook a little more. Being able to take care of yourself is something I hope all of us can do. It may seem daunting, but it’s more doable than you think. You can do it!
Happy cooking, friends!
Thomas Ngo, RD