I’ve decided cooking isn’t hard. So many people I talk to about cooking think it’s this mystic art, and I think people like giant corporations whose sole purpose is to make our lives easier by selling us prepackaged food make us think that. Check out this stat from an article in the Atlantic on how kitchens these days are just expensive excuses to look fancy to our friends:
When my grandmother was growing up in the 1920s, the average woman spent about 30 hours a week preparing food and cleaning up. By the 1950s, when she was raising her family, that number had fallen to about 20 hours a week. Now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women average just 5.5 hours—and those who are employed, like me, spend less than 4.4 hours a week.
Because what used to be a full-time job is now something we have to find time to squeeze in (which, if you think about it, is a pretty crazy predicament for something as essential as giving our bodies the fuel they need to live), we don’t know cooking. Which means we are afraid of it. There are wacky tools and impossible ingredients, and on top of it all, we now have a whole class of foodies who make it look like they can afford to spend a mortgage payment each month on truffles and the latest ridiculous gadget from Williams-Sonoma.
This is unnecessary. Now that I’ve cooked a few things, I can assure you it is totally doable. In fact, you should start right away. I’ve been thinking a lot about how cooking seems to boil down to a small list of basics, aka the 10 things you need to be a great cook. (Good news! You probably already have a bunch of them.) Here’s my list:
1. A chef’s knife. Seriously. It will cut just about everything you’re going to need to cut in the kitchen.
2. Pots and pans. Some small ones, medium ones and big ones.
3. Olive oil. Olive oil is the nectar of the gods and you can almost never go wrong by adding it to anything, ever.
4. Vinegar. Vinegar is one of my most favorite ingredients in life. You need red wine and balsamic to start. Later, you can add white wine and apple cider to the mix. I already can’t wait for you.
5. Salt. It makes things better. I use it as liberally as I want to get the flavor of my food right in the kitchen, but avoid it at the dining table.
6. Bowls. A set of mixing bowls, plus small ones to hold stuff when you prep (I also use small plates for this).
7. Dairy. Eggs, butter, milk. Shopping list staples, and with good reason, because inevitably you’re going to need them. Good to have on hand always.
8. Herbs and spices. You will build these over time, but a few of my go-to faves are garlic, basil, cumin and rosemary.
10. A willingness to fail. Sometimes when you cook stuff it’s not going to turn out as delicious as you want–and then you are going to have to eat it every day until it’s gone because you spent all your grocery money on that one dish. And that’s okay, because most of the time it’s going to turn out pretty well, and other times you are going to cook things that are so good, they remind you why life is beautiful in the same way that family and friends and sunsets do.
What would you add to the list?