Q5-#AAHHC: I don’t have much experience in the kitchen. How do I start gaining more confidence?
No one is born a good cook. It requires repetition, practice and trial and error to become one. I do think, however, that one’s exposure to diverse foods when young naturally helps build up a gradual understanding of flavors, food combinations and preparations. This is why traveling can be such a wonderful culinary experience since you get to be exposed to largely different cuisines than your own. It is not a necessity however–that’s why we have restaurants.
If you are new to the kitchen or seek to diversify the types of food you usually make, the first step to improving your cooking is to heighten the use of your senses. Consider a steaming bowl of ramen that’s placed in front of you–what do you notice? Our senses immediately pick up on how the bowl of ramen may smell, taste, look and even sound. When we take our first bite, our mouths feel the texture of the noodles. This is all to say that cooking is a sensory experience.
When cooking for ourselves, we should be using all of our senses to help inform how we prepare a meal. This is called intuitive cooking. We cook intuitively when we adjust flavors “to taste” and when we make culinary decisions based on what feels right.
Here’s how to develop your intuitive cooking:
1. Garner Inspiration. What’s inspiring you to create this particular dish? Is it a recipe that you want to recreate? I often take photos of menus or find myself wanting to create comfort foods from my childhood.
2. Evoke Feelings. If you were to serve this meal to a friend, what feelings would you want them to feel? Perhaps it’s feelings of comfort. Perhaps it’s a feeling of lightness and alertness. How you want someone to feel after they’ve eaten your meal can inform the type of food you’re cooking and even the ingredients you use.
3. Always Taste. Tasting as you cook is so important in understanding how flavors interact and develop over time. Each time you add a new ingredient, taste it. See if it’s balanced and if not, determine what other flavors would complement. Let’s be honest, tasting is probably the most fun part of cooking anyway.
4. Practice the Basics. Even the most intuitive cook can find themselves in the weeds if they literally have no idea how to create a particular meal. Building your intuitive cooking skills take time. There’s nothing wrong with finding a recipe that works and using it until you feel comfortable. Once you do, try alternating it from it by using different ingredients and varying amounts. Cooking with a recipe is like driving with a GPS–accurate but not instinctual. And sometimes we get too focused on following the recipe that we don’t fully understand what we’re actually doing. As you get more comfortable, rely less on recipes and go with your gut.
As you continue to practice, you’ll find that you have more confidence in your skills. Allow yourself to be more intuitive and enjoy the process!
Have questions related to health and wellness? Send them to me via email or through my IG @sanghaofgrace to have them answered!
*I am not a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Those with major medical concerns should consult with their doctor.