5 Lessons from Learning to Cook

I must say that my cooking is amazing! Sitting down to dinner some nights and I can’t help but exclaim out loud, “dang this is good!” I don’t say this to boast or brag but to tell you I haven’t always been this good. Shoot, I could barely make a box of mac and cheese in my teens. The extent of my cooking skill was microwaving a bowl of ramen noodles. In high school I leveled up to those boxes of hamburger helpers.

I was relatively okay with my lack of skills until I started to seriously date my now husband. I realized, ‘oh snap, I might be a wife soon. I need to get my act together.’ Neither of my parents ever really cooked nor taught me how. I had to learn it all on my own. But I never thought of that as an inhibitor; just that I needed to learn and only you can teach yourself, so I did.

Obviously I started simple. My first real meal was, I think, a broccoli and mushroom quiche or frittata. You know those egg pies. I was so proud of that quiche! With its chunks of Velveeta and all. I made it from beginning to end. Cooked the onions, mixed it up and baked it!

I remember visiting my future in laws (sans fiancĂ©) and mother-in-law asking me to help cut up something. It was laughable how clueless I was at how to cut up vegetables. I’m sure she thought I was too incompetent to marry her son, it was that bad.

But I slowly practiced with simple recipes to build up skills of cutting, mixing, or cooking order, and even a bit of learning what flavors go well together. My mom got me a great cookbook that had simple recipes in it with great pictures to get me started. I had some flops and had to write notes in the book to remind me how to do it better. But it was so satisfying trying a recipe and it turning out pretty good.

I got better at seeing before trying a recipe if I would like it or not. Soon I was able to know if adding something or leaving something out was acceptable or even made it better. However, I never got the highly desirable skill of being able to open the fridge and put together odds and ends to make a meal. I attempted this very early in my marriage before very much skill in any area was developed. We had some leftovers of this which I mixed with some of that and baked it. Oh it was TERRIBLE!! Neither of us could eat any of it. Thankfully my husband has a good sense of humor and loves to bring it up every chance he can. I am terrified to try anything that’s not a recipe or at least something I am very familiar with now.

But now I have been cooking and learning for over eight years. That means I am almost a master right? Halfway? But there are some things I learned along the way about learning a skill.

1.) Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s end!!

Or your worst to another’s best. I remember looking at Hunny’s mother and thinking I could never be like that. But not only has she had years more experience, she is also different from me, and she learned the skills she needed for her and her family. Her situation was different from mine and I will need to learn different things than she did.

2.) There is not a right or wrong way to learn.

Part of my journey involved the embarrassing part of thinking margarine, tofu and low fat was healthy. I cringe to think of what we ate thinking it was good for us. And though I could say it was a wrong way of thinking it was part of my journey that helped me gain a better understanding elsewhere. Just like failure is a learning opportunity, embarrassing and ‘wrong’ practices can also be the beginning or way of learning something you couldn’t have learned otherwise.

3.) You are never done learning, and if you think you are, find a way to use your skill to help and serve others.

It might seem like you are done learning or at least feel like you are satisfied with where you are in your journey, but there are always ways to improve. If you think otherwise, may I suggest you find a way to reach out and share your skill with others? Either to teach them or to serve them. Actually, find ways to use your skills for others all along the way, not just when you are done.

4.) Use what you’ve learned from one skill to apply to learning another.

I have pulled on my lessons of learning to cook a lot when starting a new skill. Usually, I tend to forget where I started and how long it took to get to where I am. Remembering all the failed attempts and do-overs helps keep in perspective what it takes to learn a new skill. But being able to remember and say, “I have done it before I can do it again” also helps.

5.) It is never a waste.

This is something that I worried about all the time. If food was thrown away because it was nasty then I wasted time and money. But my dear sweet husband points out that it is all just a learning experience. Don’t worry if things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. Take it as an opportunity to look at what went well and what you could do better. It is only a waste if you don’t learn from it.

So I hope that as you are learning something new, you keep a good sense of humor and keep trying. Don’t be discouraged and let go of perfect. Make mistakes and learn from them.

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