Learning to cook is not as hard as you think

Cooking at Home: Is It Important to You?

by Kay Jorgensen

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Home cooking means something different to everyone. To some, it means the comfort and security of having the food you prefer, prepared and served in the privacy and comfort of your own home. To some, it simply means piles of dirty dishes, shopping, and extra work which they would rather not have in a busy schedule. As in every lifestyle choice, the pros and cons have to be clearly laid out, and the proper information needs to be available so the correct decision can be made.

But, you say, who is going to do the cooking, so we can share a meal? Mom is often working, the kids are in school, maybe Dad never learned to cook, and besides, he is tired like everyone else at the end of the day. Here is where family planning sessions can be invaluable.

If you think cooking at home takes too much time, and is too much work, do this experiment. Go out for supper, making note of the time you left the house, and the time you returned, as well as the money you spent. Later, shop for groceries for a similar meal, prepare it at home, and see which way you prefer. Not everyone likes to cook, that is all there is to it. But if you would like to give it a try, you may well be surprised to find that it is something you enjoy.

Cooking is a learned skill, consisting of simply reading and following directions. And, as in anything you do well, there is an element of work in it, if you are going to get any real satisfaction out of it.

But there is no great mystery about cooking. Just start by putting together a very simple meal and as you persevere, you will find that it gets much easier. There is a great deal of satisfaction in bucking the trend toward more and more families eating away from home.

If you know someone who likes to cook, ask them to show you the basics. Show me always works better than tell me. Besides, most good cooks love what they do, and would appreciate being asked, especially if an offer to help accompanies the request!

If you do not know anyone who can show you, get yourself a good beginners' cookbook, even a kids' cookbook. Just be sure there is a section on basic techniques.

Keep your kitchen equipment to a minimum, especially if you are not sure you are going to enjoy cooking. And remember that appliances do not always make life easier, especially if you are not cooking large meals.

Keep your hands clean, as well as all the cooking surfaces. Clean up as you go, and it will become a habit.

Depending on how new you are to the home cooking scene, try out a few of the basic techniques, before you try for a complete meal.

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Stay away from the prepared food section in most cases, as your best food buys will come by starting from scratch.

Learn to read labels, and compare prices. It will take you more time to do your shopping, but it is well worth it. A calculator is handy to take along, if the price per unit is not marked on the shelf.

Keep thinking economy, all the time you are shopping. There is a good reason so many non-food items are found at eye level at the supermarket, and they certainly can add to the price of your grocery order. Do not go shopping when you are hungry, and stick to your list. If you see something that appeals to you, do not buy it this trip, but note it on the bottom of your shopping list for future consideration.

There are good books available, both in the bookstores and in the library, about shopping for health, and how to make wise food choices along the supermarket aisles. Get one and read it. It is truly amazing what you will learn, whether you are new to cooking, or have cooked for fifty years.

Remember that if you learn to cook at home you will save money as well as time, and have the food you love cooked in happy surroundings, just the way you like it. You do not have to depend on what someone else thinks you would like to eat, you can exercise your individuality and independence.

Happy cooking!

(editor's note: we asked Kay to tell you a little about herself. This is her reply.)
I grew up on a small mixed farm in central eastern Alberta, took one six month course in Home Economics at a local college, and then took my nurses' training in Edmonton. I have been married to my best old friend for 37 years, I am retired but he is not. We live in the north east part of BC, in a small city, in a mostly agricultural area. We raised four children, and have six grandchildren. I love to cook, sew, and garden, and the last few years have been doing a bit of volunteer work. We bought the computer three years ago, and I have been working very hard to learn how to use it, but as soon as I learn how to do something new, I find something else I have to try to learn.

I would be interested to know what people need to know about cooking. I have to think that it comes automatically to me, but I know that is not true of everyone. The older I get, the more I think that some things are programmed into you when you are born, and there is not a lot you can do about it.

There are some who just hate cooking, and always will. The only hope is that they love to eat, and if they find out that they can cook what they love, when they want to, maybe it will all come together. My husband occasionally puts a meal together, but it is inevitably when the fridge is well stocked with precooked food, and he is REALLY hungry. It is just not a thing he likes to do.

Of course, there are people, I know, who would cook if they thought they had the time - and those are the ones who can be encouraged to learn. Believe me, I NEVER spend long in the kitchen. Now if I could only teach my computer to vacuum, wash the dog, and do the dusting!

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