Friday, February 26, 2010

10 Things I Have Learned in the Kitchen

So there are a few things that I have learned in a short life time of cooking. Some of them are common knowledge, others warning, and still more are notes. Of coarse these are all my opinions, and while I hope that they are helpful, I'm not going to say that they are essential.

1. "Yes, it's meant to make that noise." Some people get freaked out when oils, vinegars and sauces begin to "scream" as I like to call it. It happens and please don't get scared. Getting nervous is only a hindrance in the kitchen and could lead to unfortunate panicking...ultimately leading to idiotic mistakes. Leading us to number two-

2. "Getting burnt is not a mistake, but an inevitable event." My boy friend works full time in a restaurant kitchen. He comes home daily with burns, cuts and missing chunks of flesh (I tease him that its karma for working in a place that serves unhealthy portions of animal flesh). The truth is most of the time (though not all) it has nothing to do with carelessness. Its just what happens when you work around gas stoves, grills and boiling oils. Resolve yourself to the fact that you might get a scratch here and there. You are not made out of glass. Heck, today I had a bit of sesame oil pop up at me but I'm alive and dinner was great. My mother had to go and have physical therapy because she severed part of her finger separating apart frozen hamburger patties. It can hurt but you will not die. (FYI if you do die it probably is from a stupid mistake.)

3. "There is a reason Mom let me lick the cake batter." Always, Always, ALWAYS taste your food as you go. Does it need more salt? Should you water it down? Tasting is the only way to tell. It is the Golden Rule of cooking. Gosh I wish I could make this longer because it is such a big's just so simple!

4. "Spices of life." Spices are the most important part of any dish. They are the thing that could make or break it. Many people are scared of using spices but dont be! They are the best part of cooking. Use ones besides salt and pepper. Try mint, thyme, basil, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, lemon grass and anything else you can get your greedy little hands on!

5. "Hippy Foods rock!" There are so many different ways to eat these days. In any city you go to you will find so many different nationalities that it can be hard to choose. Even staying with regional foods, there is nothing wrong with raw food or vegetarian food. Its not "new age" or "dirty hippy" stuff anymore. Its positive and healthy nutrition!

6. "Experimenting isn't just for science class." There is nothing more fun than making something for yourself. Even if you're working off of a recipe feel the freedom to add some of your favorite ingredients to it or some that you have no idea how to use. Even if you don't have a recipe and just want to toss together something that is in your pantry you do have that right! Afraid? Try google,, or any of millions of cooking blogs.

7. "Children are starving in Africa." We've all heard this before but what does it mean? It means that millions of people all over the world don't have food. I know, I know. I am getting dangerously close to revoking my statement that this is not an activist cooking blog. But really? If these people don't have food, why should you toss yours out? If you don't want your left overs I guaranty you some of your friends or neighbors will take it. Don't throw that meat in your fridge away if your going veg or vegan. Give it away. Just remember: food has real measurable value.

8. "Quality means you do have to make a little investment." Good reading takes an investment in books. To be good at cycling you need a good bike. To make good and tasty food you need the proper tools. Here are some basics that I think people should have. A citrus nester, pans (Obviously but you should have two of each in a large and small size in case you are making sauces), a good SHARP set of knives, mixing bowls, food processor (best investment ever for mincing...will save you a ton of time),a nice big cutting board, and a steamer for your grains and veggies. I think that these are the best most basic things to have around. Oh, and don't forget tupperware! A lot of it will make storing and labeling dead dates.

9. "If you can't Stand the heat...check you oven." I have learned this the hard way. In the last point I outlined some of the basic items that are used in the kitchen. But we are not all rich and some of us live in crappy apartments that will not allow us to change the most important part of our kitchen: the stove (Can you tell I'm bitter?) I do not have a gas stove but I want one. Until that happens I am stuck with an uneven electric stove. I learned the hard way to check your food every seven to ten minutes. Do this and you have a better chance of not over or under cooking.

10. "Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food."- Hippocrates (father of western medicine) I know its hard to think this way when so much of our illness comes from food. E-coli, salminila not to mention diabetes are constantly looming over us. But why do we shove a pill down our throats instead of taking in some healthy, healing food? I believe that food is the best medicine (Even as I sit here with a sinus infection I eat oranges, melons, steamed Kale leaves and drink herbal tea. Food, including herbs, has the power to heal us in a safe and natural way. I am not saying to forgo western medicine but just to look at it as the way that Hippocrates did. If you are feeling under the weather or just are in a glummy mood try picking up The Kitchen Shrink by Natalia Savona. It helps.


Jenn said...

All good lessons. I think #6 Experimenting is my favorite.