The Big Question: Why Cook?
Seriously. With the abundance of fast food, deli food, frozen packaged food, and restaurants all around, why go to the trouble of learning to cook at home?
The answer for most people is that they don’t know how. They don’t know what ingredients to buy or what pans to use. They’ve watched other people struggle to put a simple meal on the table that ended up being inedible. The lessons learned in “home living” or “home economics” classes have long been forgotten. They don’t have a clue where to begin.
Take heart, and come on in to the kitchen. It’s really not a scary place at all.
Even if you haven’t set foot in a kitchen for years — to cook, that is — don’t worry. Even if you can’t remember the last time you read through and finished a recipe, that’s all right. Even if you have no time, no fancy pots and pans, no patience, and no experience, I promise you can do this. Yes, you.
But why bother? There are as many reasons to learn to cook as there are fast food franchises at your local mall. For starters, it’s far cheaper to cook at home than it is to buy take-out or eat at restaurants night after night, especially once you’ve gathered some basic ingredients. If you find a few recipes that appeal to you, make a list, and buy only what you need, you can make a week’s worth of dinners for about the same amount of money you’d spend in a mid-range restaurant for two or three meals. Check out a restaurant menu online and add up the costs: entree, drink, tip. Times two. See?
Another reason: cooking for yourself, generally, is healthier. You control the amounts of fat, sodium, carbs, or any other substance. You can buy fruits and vegetables in season and at their peak of flavor and nutritional value rather than settling for browned lettuce or fruit that tastes like cardboard. Portion control is as easy as deciding how much food to put on your plate, eliminating the temptation to eat all those fries that came with your restaurant burger.
Cooking for yourself allows you more flexibility than using prepared foods or ordering at a restaurant. We all know at least one picky eater who drives us nuts whenever she orders at a restaurant: hold the mayo, no onion, extra cheese, medium rare but not too pink…you know the type. At home, if you don’t like black olives in your pasta, don’t use them. If you like extra basil, add it. You can use olive oil instead of butter, or soy milk instead of dairy. The choices are limitless, and your meals are suited to your tastes, every time. What restaurant can do that for you?
Finally, cooking at home can be faster than going out. Add up the time spent driving to a restaurant, waiting to be seated, waiting to be served, eating, paying, then driving home again. You could have fixed something simple and tasty much faster and been more comfortable in the process — shoes off, favorite music on the stereo, relaxing in your own home.
Learning to cook doesn’t mean you will never eat out again. Of course you will, and you should! But when you decide to go out, it will be on your terms: when you can afford it, when you have the energy, and when you have the time.
Next: Kitchen Basics for the Beginning Home Cook