I remember the first time I ever made a legitimate meal for my boyfriend. Even though we had been dating for months, it was so scary to think I could make him food that he wouldn’t like. The cooking I did for myself was pretty bland.
One day I decided I wanted to try making a dish everyone loves, but is a step up from grilled cheese. That dish? Spaghetti bolognese.
A lot of work went into making this bolognese. I called my mom. I called my grandma. I called my brother!
For the record, we’re Jewish, not Italian. Everyone in my family cooks but spaghetti bolognese wasn’t a common dish in our household at all.
I made a whole day out of it. What else could I possibly have to do on a Saturday anyway?
It was intimidating because It was the first time I attempted to make something besides a scrambled egg for a guest.
I just wanted to impress him. Making a sauce from scratch was the more complex than anything else. I’m not a pasta pro either.
The fear showed up in the grocery store when I went to buy ingredients. What if I bought the wrong kind of onion? The recipe didn’t actually specify. It just said, “onion.”
This is what I mean when I say I’m not comfortable making pasta: In college, I once asked my roommate to guide me through making pasta. She couldn’t get over how I lacked this very simple survival skill. I knew I had to read the directions on the box, but what if I fucked it up?
Since I was unfamiliar with it, it intimidated me and I needed someone to hold my hand. And that’s what I’m going to do for you.
Cooking is intimidating because you can screw it all up and have to throw everything away. What a waste right? But if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never learn.
Here are some of the many common screw ups that literally everyone makes when learning how to cook.
-mixing up ingredients and their amounts
I’m not saying you should go out tomorrow and drop money on ingredients for a bolognese sauce from scratch.
You have to start small and simple to gain confidence. Knowing how to cook is just knowing how to follow directions.
Here are some ways to stop being intimidated about cooking today.
1. Pick recipes that are so simple, they’re almost mistake proof.
You didn’t learn how to ride a bike without training wheels, right? Same with cooking. Start simple and small.
Search for recipes with a very simple, short ingredient list. All Recipes has a great database of five ingredient recipes for literally any diet and cooking ability.
Other easy things to make that are hard to screw up: pasta, grilled cheese, eggs, sautéed vegetables, rice.
2. Start by making half a meal for yourself if you’re really unfamiliar with cooking.
Let’s say you want to have dinner at home for yourself, but cooking an entire meal feels intimidating to you and you have very little experience.
Try swinging by the grocery store on your way home. Pick up a piece of chicken, tofu, salmon, or whatever protein you like that isn’t from the frozen section, but from the refrigerated section. Also, grab a prepared side salad or prepared veggies, which most supermarkets have if they have a deli section.
Yeah, that’s a five-minute grocery store trip for just two items!
When you’re home, all you will have to do is cook the meat however you want- in the oven, on a grill or in a pan.
Start simple by adding olive oil, salt and lemon or just soy sauce. If you know you don’t have one of those very basic, common and useful ingredients, you should invest in them now. Cooking chicken or fish in a pan takes less than 15 minutes depending on the thickness.
Cooking doesn’t need to be fancy to be good. When you’re starting out, all you need is confidence. If you do that, then you can enjoy a night at home and eating a meal you basically prepared for yourself without breaking the bank or even a sweat.
It’s a start — and that’s all that matters.
The next time you want a night home, take it a step further and throw a salad together, which involves literally no cooking at all.
A simple meal like that could cost $15-$30 at a restaurant. You can make the same meal for $10 and still have leftovers.
3. Remember that cooking is just a fun science experiment that you can also eat.
It’s okay if your meals don’t come out perfect. You might not get an insta-worthy dish every time.
What matters is that you’re taking care of yourself. Cooking is one of the best forms of self-love a person can practice. It’s a skill we need for survival. It’s a skill you’ll have for the rest of your life, even if you become rich enough to afford a personal chef.
Since most of us aren’t at that point in life yet, we have to be our own personal chefs.
Sometimes, all it takes to get over being intimidated by cooking is just spending more time in your kitchen. This is definitely true for me.
I live in a tiny studio, but it wasn’t until after I made that spaghetti bolognese that I truly felt comfortable in that kitchen.
Learn how to work around your kitchen’s quirks. Maybe one of the burners on your stove is finicky, or maybe your oven takes a long ass time to heat up like mine does.