Friday, February 19, 2010

What Makes a "Good" Cook?

"For a gourmand there is no need to produce complicated dishes with fancy names. Prepare for him raw materials of good quality. Transform them as little as possible and accompany them with suitable sauces and you will have produced a meal which is just right."
~Edouard de Pomaine, from "Cooking with Pomaine"

An abundance of packaged meals, frozen dinners, prepared foods, and restaurants on every corner offering cuisines from around the world has produced a society in which people don't need to cook for themselves in order to survive. In fact, today's children are the third generation of Americans who depend on corporations and low-wage workers to feed them.

No matter my thoughts on how my parents taught me to eat (more on that later), the fact is, I learned to cook at a young age. I chopped fresh vegetables, I boiled pasta, I baked cookies and helped decorate cakes. I was taught to enjoy the process of cooking. 

And by today's standards, I would consider myself a decent cook. I have an adventurous palate, I understand why certain foods taste good together, and I can improvise on flavors and textures. But my abilities leave a lot to be desired. I am afraid of certain foods and appliances, so I avoid recipes that require them. I gravitate toward short recipes that call for ingredients I already have in my cabinets and refrigerator. And there are some embarrassingly basic cooking techniques that elude me.

I think everyone has a different idea of what makes a "good" cook. For now – for myself – I define it as being educated in the ways of food. Being confident in the kitchen. Being able to cook virtually any food in a manner that is both delicious and healthy. I'll call it being a good cook with a capital G.

I hope to become a good cook with a capital G by mastering some of the cooking basics that are still foreign to me, expanding my cooking knowledge by learning from those with more experience than I, and branching out to discover new foods.

I have a feeling this is going to get messy.

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