Mageirocophobia. Heard of it? I hadn’t either until I looked it up. I guarantee someone you know suffers from it though…maybe its even you! Mageirocophobia is the fear of cooking. Yes I know there is a name for every fear in existence these days, but this one obviously strikes a cord with me as a chef. I cook for a living. I cook out of sheer passion. I often cook to run away from my fears, so it came as a complete shock to me that so many people suffer from a fear of something that to me seems so instinctual and primal.
Countless people come to me during my cooking demos or while Im teaching a cooking class and say “I don’t know any recipes” or “cooking is just so overwhelming.” Hearing these statements over the past few years helped me realize that what to me was second nature, to many actually seemed scary mainly because of a very basic false notion: Learning recipes will teach you how to cook. Many think that knowing precise measurements and exact cooking times will provide you with the knowledge you need for cooking.
The truth is, recipes don’t make a cook. Techniques and concepts do. You can learn the recipe for schnitzel for example and yes, you will know how to make a schnitzel. But just like that, you’ve limited yourself. Instead of learning how long to cook the chicken at what heat and what to bread it with, why not learn some techniques and concepts about cooking chicken in general and breading in general. Now you have greatly expanded your knowledge of cooking! You know how to cook chicken in countless ways and you have learned breading techniques which you can use for many different dishes. Just learning a recipe is like learning the Pythagorean theorem without learning basic arithmetic. The concepts won’t stick if you don’t have the foundation.
Sure there are many concepts and techniques in cooking but I at least wanted to share a few with you here that will get you excited about the prospect of learning the basics of cooking. Knowing some techniques and concepts makes cooking less “overwhelming” by breaking it down into the fundamentals. It’s common sense to start from the beginning. It’s the way we are taught everything else in life. Why not apply it to cooking!
First… Let’s talk about your best friend. Yes, yes, the knife. The most important tool in the kitchen. Now in a perfect world I could be at each one of your homes and teach you how to hold one and use one properly. Lucky for us both there’s Youtube. Check out a few videos (there are many). Next practice, practice, practice. Just take a potato or cucumber and go to town. Trust me, it’ll be fun.
Now that you can hold a knife and cut something let’s talk about the next thing: Experimentation! Do you honestly think that chefs in the ranks of Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, Grant Achatz (some of my personal favorites) don’t f*ck up a dish?! I promise you everyone messes up, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Go into this with the idea that you’re here to have fun. Invite some friends over or make it a date night, you will be amazed with how much fun it is and what it could lead to. You’ll need a fat (oil or butter) a vegetable (it’s more forgiving if you under or over cook it and won’t put you in the hospital) and some salt. Give it a go and see what happens.
Lastly, taste. taste. taste. You’d be surprised how much simply tasting as you go makes a difference. No such thing as just tasting at the end. Cooking is all about development. Any good relationship it needs attention; so does your food.
Sharone – your culinary voice of reason