Recipes Won’t Teach You How to Cook

 

An early morning revelation

Last Thursday, I woke up with a new thought in my mind - a thought that struck me as odd and yet profoundly true, and if you’re someone who is struggling to find a way to prepare more home-cooked meals, I think you’ll find it to be incredibly insightful.

So here it is:

Recipes are written for people who
already know how to cook.

I know, it sounds strange.  You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But Kibby, how am I supposed to learn how to cook if I don’t have a recipe?” Before you start @ing me, let me break this down for you.

A recipe is a set of instructions written for the purpose of telling you how to execute the preparation of a particular dish.  However, with every recipe, there is a minimum requirement of familiarity with kitchen terms, tools, and techniques that are needed in order to follow the directions.

Think of it like a piece of piano sheet music.  It, too, is a set of instructions - it tells you the key, the tempo, the time signature, volume, and many other pieces of information along with the notes themselves.  I am a musician, but I wouldn’t consider myself a pianist, and unless you are a pianist who both understands the terms on the page and has the muscle memory in your fingers and feet to perform the chords and runs and transitions, the sheet music is not much help to you.

an average recipe from a home meal delivery kit
such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Home Chef
contains 12 unique kitchen techniques in the first step alone

The same goes with a recipe.  The simplest recipe from online or provided by a home meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Home Chef, will have anywhere from 8 to 15 unique kitchen techniques that you are expected to recognize and understand how to perform.  Even something as basic as “halve, peel, and slice an onion” can be taken in a number of different directions (I know this because I have seen hundreds of people slice onions, in my professional life and in my hands-on kitchen sessions; you’d be surprised the number of ways you can interpret the same statement), and doing it the wrong way could have a negative effect on the final outcome.

Are you getting it yet?  Most recipes aren’t meant to teach you how to cook: they are meant to walk you through a series of steps that apply familiar techniques to particular ingredients in a certain order to obtain a desired result.  Sure, there are exceptions; I have picked up new techniques and approaches to food by cooking through recipes, but by and large they still assume a certain base level of competence in the kitchen.

That’s the thing I’m seeing and experiencing more and more every day - people aren’t starting from the same level of kitchen competence that they might have just one or two generations ago.  Most of you probably didn’t grow up in a home where you had a parent, grandparent, or other loved one preparing home-cooked meals for you on a regular basis. Just like most people learn to walk and to speak by imitating what they see at home, cooking used to be something that was naturally handed-down and learned through daily exposure.

So what about you: do you find recipes to be intimidating?  Are you disappointed with your ability to follow their instructions?

Don’t be ashamed of where you are in your home-cooking journey.  

Not knowing how to dice an onion or zest a lemon does not make you stupid, incompetent, or hopeless.  It simply means you are starting farther back than others, and it is my hope to help you fill in the gaps and get you to a place where you can approach the kitchen with more confidence.  It can be done, and I know you can get there.

Let me know how I can help.  Send me an email right now with your top kitchen challenges and we’ll work on ways to get you to where you want to be.