Step away from the KD
Overcoming mageirocophobia (the fear of cooking)
The tales of mealtime disasters are abundant and absurd. Anything from watching the babysitter try to make eggs in the toaster, attempting chocolate chip cookies in the microwave, or having your friend’s mom burn down her own kitchen — three times.
These disasters need not be your own tales of kitchen catastrophes.
With a little bit of guidance, confidence and some experience, it is possible to whip up easy and delicious recipes, even if you have no experience past the microwave and the toaster oven.
Terrified of the kitchen?
Get some help. Talk to a friend or family member that can give you a crash-course in the culinary arts. If these potential bonding moments end up in shame and hurt feelings more than learning experiences, take a class.
Chinook Learning Services also offers 2-4 week evening and weekend programs at a reasonable price, depending on what you desire to learn. Amy Omelusik has been instructing the cuisine-challenged for 10 years there.
“I think everyone has had cooking disasters,” she said. “When I teach my cooking classes I actually encourage the students that if they are going to make a mistake, to make it there, because then I can help them figure out how to fix it and what to do different.”
Omelusik stressed that her cooking classes are nothing like Gordon’s Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.
“I can’t even stand watching his cooking shows,” she said. “To me, the most important thing is people walking away being able to use those skills to keep them out of McDonald’s.”
Start From Scratch is an alternative program that offers free courses to MRU and U of C students, but the demand is high, so sign up and cross your fingers.
Picking a meal
It is important to find something you actually want to cook. To the Internet, my friends! Websites like allrecipies.com and supercook.com are great places to start.
Make sure you pick something that is within your range of skills, or something that doesn’t require more time than you have. Sure, baking bread is awesome, but only if you have time to run home in between classes and knead it at the appropriate times. Otherwise you might have a dough-disaster. Trust me on this one.
By signing up to All Recipes, you can save your recipes, adjust meal sizes and create grocery lists. There are fabulous photos and suggestions from other users on variations.
Supercook.com has a little bit of a different approach to cooking. Type in the ingredients you have kicking around your place, and Supercook offers you recipe awesomeness that you will be able to make without going to the grocery store.
It also features recipes that require only one or two ingredients that you have not listed. Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus? Yes please!
Rule number one of going to the supermarket: Don’t go hungry. It is easier to buy things that are instant and unhealthy when hungry. Plan your trips after you have eaten.
Rule number two: Make a list. Don’t just wing it, chances are good you’ll forget something vital to your meal of awesomeness, only to remember when you are on the bus ride home. By that time, you are not going to want to turn around and head back for that bunch of fresh cilantro.
Ideally, we will all shop locally-grown vegetables and fruit and eat only free range organic animals of our choosing, but let’s be serious. That stuff is expensive, and the farmers’ markets in Calgary are not open at the most convenient times.
Most Safeways, Sobeys and Superstores are open until 11, seven days a week. Awesome. Over the Christmas season, a number of Wal-Marts and Superstores are open 24 hours a day. Double awesome.
The healthiest things in a grocery store can be found on the outside isles. Produce, meat, dairy and the bakery are situated on the outer portions of the stores because they require care, supervision and refrigeration.
Reese Puffs cereal will always be found on an internal isle, right at eye-level. This is to entice you and screaming children in shopping carts into buying. If you need to go down the middle isles of your local grocery store, try to shop from the top or bottom shelves. That’s where the (more) nutritious things are hiding.
Reader’s Digest website also recommends buying items with short ingredient lists when shopping in the internal isles. “When you find a packaged food in the supermarket with a long list of ingredients on the label, just set it back on the shelf and look for a simpler version of the food.”
Spicing meals up can be as simple as a little salt and pepper, but often recipes call for oregano, basil, rosemary and the like. Buying each of these individually can get pricey. Invest in a simple rotating spice rack – with spices included!
Canadian Tire sells these wonderful kitchen additions for anywhere from $20-70. The fancier the rack that holds the actual jars, the more it costs. It’s not mandatory to have the best of the best, but having access to a variety of herbs is a meal saver.
Thestudentkitchen.com recommends plastic over wood. “Wood is better for your knives, but plastic is cheaper and easier to clean.”
Silicone flippers and spatulas are amazing. They do not melt if they are accidentally left resting in the pan and are flexible and durable. Pricier than regular old plastic, but worth every cent. Check Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart for sales on these items. You will not regret it. Next up, one large saucepan and two smaller ones. Epic batches of chili and stew are only made in large pots, once again with a well-fitting lid. The smaller saucepans are good for single serving soups, sauces and gravies. Finally, get a kitchen timer. Something idiot-proof that makes enough noise to scare the bejesus out of you. Hit up your local dollar store so you’re not scraping the burnt layer off of your tuna melt.
Bringing it all together
“Read the recipe!” Omelusik said. “Especially for men. Read the recipe completely through before you start.
“Follow the recipe the way it is stated the first time, then if you want to make any changes to it you can next time.”
Reading this article and looking at pictures of delicious meals on Pintrest will not magically turn you into Martha Stewart.
Cooking and baking requires practice and patience, but will leave you equipped to handle more complicated meals in the future and definitely impress that special someone (or your mom).