Cooking

Okay, so!  We’re in our twenties.  Chances are we know our way around a kitchen a little bit.  At least enough so you no longer accidentally dump Kraft Dinner in a sink that is still sudsy (not that you knew that at the time) and serve it up anyway.

Ahem.

Let’s assume we know the basics.  We can throw together a salad, pasta, maybe a few other dishes.  You’re not about to slice your finger off with a knife.  What comes next?  How do we take that next step on the cooking ladder?

Figure out your ideal cooking environment: solo, with a friend or surrounded by guests?  Silence, with only the sound of oil sizzling in the pan and the knife sliding over the cutting board, or bursting with music?  It’s hard to relax into a cooking groove when you’re distracted, so figure out what works for you and do whatever you can to make it a habit.

Are you a casual cook or a diehard?  If you just want to have things on hand for the occasional meal, you won’t need much beyond the basics.  If you want to branch out, though, or cook more often, there are things that can make your life a lot easier, like a good food processor.  Now’s the time to start saving up or adding them to your Amazon wish list!

Hone your technique. Knife skills, international cuisines, it’s all fair game for a local cooking class.  If your budget is already bursting at the seams, YouTube is a free alternative, and (bonus!) you can learn right from your own kitchen.  Another option?  Have a cooking date with a friend or family member: they can make their favourite dishes and you can watch the master at work.

Source your food locally whenever possible. It supports your local economy and usually tastes better, too.  If and when this isn’t feasible, do some digging and discover when to put your money on organic food and when you can save a bit of money.  Fruits and vegetables with think or inedible skin, for example, are usually okay to buy however they come. Check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Cheat Sheet from Life Your Way to help you figure it out.

Next time you go out to eat, don’t chew mindlessly.  This is a good habit to get into whether you like to cook or not, but right now you really want to focus on the flavours hitting your tongue, that little kick of heat that clears your sinuses.  Brainstorm with your lunching companions, ask the waiter what that funky, delicious green mystery is in your salad.  You’ll have something new to try next time you’re in the kitchen.

Learn from your mistakes. Sometimes they’re obvious, like the aforementioned Kraft Dinner fiasco; occasionally it’s more subtle, like you try a few dishes for a dinner party and don’t realize until you’re going back into the kitchen for dessert that they were all on the heavy side.  No need to totally toss the menu, just exchange one of the dishes for something lighter next time.

Have you cooked for people other than yourself yet? Don’t be scared. Start small, take a plate of lemon bars to a book club meeting or put out a bowl of crackers (easier to make than you’d think!) the next time your parents come over. The joy you get from sharing food you made with people you care about will have you revved up and ready to get right back in the kitchen.

Having fun in the kitchen is one of the things I love best, and the more I test my boundaries, the more comfortable I become. No more Kraft Dinner mix-ups! How about you, GenTwenty readers?  What was your latest kitchen adventure? How are you pushing your kitchen boundaries?