Fail Better: Why You Should Start Cooking

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Now, I’m not talking the kind of cooking where you pop some Kraft Mac & Cheese in the microwave (as delicious as it may be). No, I mean the kind that requires the use of a knife or two, maybe the stovetop or oven. But, does the idea of busting out the knives and turning on the oven make you cringe? Well, here’s a list, because lists are persuasive:

  • Creativity – Cooking is creative, and the more experience you get, the more creative you can be (or sometimes it just happens by accident which is really fun). Don’t have a certain ingredient? Substitute it. Got something about to go bad? Tweak your recipe around that. I had oranges that REALLY needed to be used up so I tweaked these two doughnut recipes into orange doughnuts by creating an orange sugar and creating a dark chocolate glaze because dark chocolate and orange = yum:
    Ginnis Tonik_orange doughnuts with dark choc glaze
    Orange doughnuts with dark chocolate glaze

    Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Annie Bulloch uses comics as her creative inspiration in our Cook Your Comics feature. Also, cocktails.

  • Money – Even using quality ingredients, cooking at home costs way less than eating out on a regular basis.
  • Ego – Seriously, it feels awesome to be able to whip up some food and people are always so impressed. I’ve really worked on honing my baking skills and now can bake without recipes and even create my own recipes (more to come on that!), it feels so good to be able to do that.
  • Yummy – Um, because food is yummy. I think that whole ego thing makes it taste better, too.

I didn’t really cook regularly until about three years ago when my course director from grad school gave me Joy the Baker’s 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes. But since then I have become obsessed, and I still eat out too much! Regardless, here are some of my own personal tips that helped me venture into cooking:

  • Follow some cooking blogs. They are free and filled with food porn. Here are some of my favorites that are great for people just starting to get into cooking:
    • Smitten Kitchen – This was one of the first food blogs I started following. Deb’s style is based in making cooking accessible and efficient for the home cook.
    • Joy the Baker – Okay, I am a Joy fangurl. When I was in New Orleans where Joy resides, I seriously considered casually bumping into her (and by that I mean stalking). She’s also the reason I braved pie-making. (Seriously, go on make your own dough.) Joy’s stuff is largely baking, but she has lots of savory recipes as well, and her writing style and overall approach to baking and cooking makes it so not scary.
    • The Kitchy Kitchen – I really like Claire’s video series demonstrating basic techniques and recipes such as making a perfect cuppa. She also provides recipes that encourage you to experiment with how these techniques change flavors such as this blanched garlic fettuccine.
  • It doesn’t have to be complicated! I don’t know about you, but I started out approaching cooking like everything had to be a fully homemade meal or something. Sometimes avocado smeared on toast topped with radishes and pepper and salt is a meal. A very delicious one. Fancy toast makes a great meal. Or berries with homemade whipped cream and thyme. Seriously, so easy:

    Ginnis Tonik_blackberries with whipped cream and thyme
    Blackberries with homemade vanilla whipped cream and fresh thyme
  • Google it. Like seriously any cooking question you have can be typed into Google and you will find the answer. Can I substitute cream for half-and-half? Google will tell you – and offer multiple perspectives. Read over a few then go with your gut. Trust it.
  • Fail, fail a whole lot. As Thomas Edison put it: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And to be frank, I often find when I do experiment and substitute that it very rarely results in something inedible. It may not be the best thing I have ever made, but it’s still pretty tasty. One time I made a bundt cake, and made some substitutions, well, the pan overflowed, and the bottom was all wonky. Still it was damn tasty. Just not pretty.

What about you? Do you regularly cook? What are some tips you’d like to share with people who are new to cooking? Intimidated by cooking? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik