You’d like to cook? OK. Why? Is it because you like food and would like to prepare it yourself, or maybe because you would like to impress someone? Perhaps you would like to become a famous chef.
All of the above are good reasons to start cooking – and there’s an abundance of more good reasons. In fact, I don’t think there are any bad reasons to start cooking, as long as there is at least one.
So, please make up your mind about why you’d like to do it. This is not a permanent decision and it might change rapidly during the course of your experiments. Still, make up your mind for now. Write your ideas on a piece of paper and put them somewhere safe.
There are many ways to start. You could just wander through your kitchen, pick up some things and throw them together, heat up the stove and go for it. Things might work or it might not.
The next thing you are probably going to do is either watch or ask a friend, mother, or grandpa how and what they cook. At first, you will most likely choose a dish you love and would like to make it yourself. Maybe granny isn’t around at the time when you have a craving for pancakes? That also might be one of the reasons you
If you don’t know anyone who can cook a little, you might have to start searching for someone or something that could help you reaching further than your first attempt of boiling toast and ketchup. That something could be the first cookbook you pick up from a bargain bin at your local bookstore. It might read something like: 50 Delicious, Simple Dishes for Absolute Beginnners.
You might succeed or you might not, but if you’re still into it, you are bound to upgrade your knowledge. You might take a cooking class, buy more advanced cookbooks, cook with friends and exchange ideas and knowledge. This is going help you take a great step forward.
Soon you’ll be interested in not only recipes, but detailed information about the chemical and physical processes involved in cooking, why some pans stick and others don’t, and why you shouldn’t work with sharp metal tools in a non-stick pan. Where and when certain produce grows and where to get the freshest fish might be other great things to find out about.
You will analyse recipes, watch friends cook, travel and take down ideas from other chefs, be aware of certain styles, cultures and countries. You will learn about them and start combining ideas from Japanese cuisine with Peruvian styles.
Now, you’ve come far from your initial attempts and years will probably have passed.
If you keep this up, and you still have the piece of paper that tells you why you wanted to cook in the first place, you will realize that you have come a long way. Your goals may have changed, but you will be able to see, from what you originally wrote in your notebook, why you want to start cooking and to keep doing it.
All is well.
What could go wrong?
Of course, a lot can go wrong, but one of the saddest and dumbest things that can go wrong, is that you lose track of the initial reason why you even started.
You read many books about molecular cooking, about complicated, weird ways of chopping fish. You’ve learned so many rules, you have analyzed and tried to understand everything. You even spend some time in China and Italy to learn from master chefs. You studied, you took courses, you practised…, and?
You forgot why you are doing it. And suddenly all the things you’ve learned replace your original incentives and why you wanted to learn how to cook in the first place.
You were told that you cannot combine milk and lemon – so you don’t. But have you ever tried making paneer? You have checked out Malaysian and Austrian cuisine, so you might combine coconut milk and fish sauce with apple strudel – because you think it’s hip and new and interesting.
But, do you step back and check if this is what you want? Is this the taste you like? Is this part of your goal? Probably not.
So step back and rethink why you do all of this. What do you need in order to achieve which goal? Which techniques do you need? What should you focus on? Ever ordered from a take-out that offers Chinese-Grill-Italian-French-German-Taiwanese-Crossover? Did you like it?
Ask yourself these questions:
Why did you want to learn to cook?
Why did you want to understand how to cook?
Why did you copy chefs?
Why did you experiment?
If you reach a point where you feel any confusion , I’d recommend focusing on eggs for a while. Scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs, eggs benedict, pancakes with eggs, eggnoodles, egg on steak, egg nog, foamy eggs, real pudding made of eggs, sauce hollandaise, spaghetti carbonara…
That should get you back on track.
About the Author:
Florian Ross is a musical explorer.
His journey into the many lands of jazz began with studies in Cologne and later London and New York, where he honed his skills both as a pianist and a composer. Florian's special area of devotion and expertise was post-bop, which flowered into his remarkable ability today to handle all forms of contemporary and improvised music.
His first album as a leader appeared in 1998. Now he has a dozen to his name, with more on the way!
Florian's music comes from a deep synthesis of heart and mind, of feeling and intellect. This is why he can so effortlessly span the realms of improvised and composed jazz. His gifts as a piano player prevent him from being seduced into the abstract theory of purely intellectual composition, while his instincts as a composer enables him to steer clear of self-indulgence on the keyboards.
He leaves to others the boring arguments about traditional jazz versus the avant-garde. Florian’s too busy making music.
And it's music of a breathtaking variety. The diversity of formats he works in is simply dazzling. Just listen to the samples http://www.florianross.de/#media to hear Florian casually excel in every combination from solo, duo, trio and quintet right up to big bands and string orchestras.
He has taught at many German universities and academies and is currently teaching Piano and Composition at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln. He has also been involved in teaching clinics and workshops all over the world.
He has played, composed and arranged for many orchestras across Europe including the Metropole Orchestra, WDR and NDR Big Band. Florian’s international awards for playing and composing are too numerous to list, but among them are the coveted first prize in the Danish Radio Big Band International Thad Jones Competition and the prestigious WDR Jazz prize for composition.
- Andrew Cartmel, Spring 2014