One of my all-time favorite people, Michael Ruhlman, wrote a really insightful and thought-provoking post at his blog. It was in response to Kim Severson’s NYT’s article, “Recipe Deal Breakers: When Step 2 is ‘Corral Pig’” At first glance, I think the article makes sense. Most of us do have recipe deal breakers. Recipes that call for a technique we’ve never heard of or one that’s difficult to do, we tend to stay away from. I spend a lot of time on this website saying, “Look! This is so easy!” and showing shortcuts to recipes. And I often avoid recipes that call for certain techniques. Because they just sound too hard. And I don’t think I have time to learn.
But when you love cooking as much as I say I do, is taking shortcuts acceptable? According to Ruhlman,
“Really good cooking is a craft, and those recipes that best describe that craft, whether simple or advanced, move all cooks forward. Those recipes that help you avoid craft, to get around it, set people who want to become better cooks, back.”
And he’s probably right. The reality though, is that most of us want to cook, we just can’t (or aren’t willing to) make enough time for learning all of the techniques right now. In my mind, cooking “simple” or “easy” recipes is way better than not cooking at all. Ruhlman continues,
“people…need to learn the few basic techniques upon which all cooking is based. Those who cook for pleasure won’t progress as cooks until they do that as well. It wouldn’t take long. There are just a handful of them.”
One of the goals of our website is to make cooking accessible to everyone, especially other 20-somethings. And I think sparking an interest and gaining a bit of confidence is the first step in becoming a cook. This is the most basic of the “techniques” that we all need to learn. And then from there, to really, really be a true cook, it needs to go further. And if you really love it, it will.
As Culinary Institute of America instructor, Michael Pardus says,
“So, you wannabe a cook, or you ARE one? Guess it all depends on how well you can read – and interpret – the sheet music, and how often you’re willing to practice your scales.”
So let’s keep reading and practicing. I know I will be.
*If you haven’t read them yet, I highly recommend Michael Ruhlman’s books, starting with The Making of a Chef. It will make you want to take serious cooking classes like whoa. He’s got a great sense of humor and you might already know him from Next Iron Chef, where he was a judge.
Michael Ruhlman in the kitchen