Cooking is messy, complex, and a huge time suck — and that is as it should be. But learning a few fundamentals will make you a force in the kitchen.
By Manny Howard
Photographs by Travis RathboneHere’s the thing: every jerk — that is, anybody who has something to sell — insists there is a trick to cooking well. It almost always involves buying more stuff that miraculously makes the job easy. I’ve grown weary listening to cookbook authors and TV personalities preach the word of the convenience gods. Truth is, cooking well isn’t any easier with or without the mountain of crap that these hucksters are pressing on us, but nor is it harder than any other skill you wish to master. Like everything else we want to do better than the next guy, we must be willing — nay, eager — to get convenience behind us. As with other worthy pursuits, being adept in the kitchen requires seriousness of purpose, the right tools (not all the tools), some specialized knowledge, and plenty of practice.
Why, after all, do we try to master any skill? An honest answer: So we can say we have. But, as food sustains us, cooking may be the only exception. There are really two motives for cooking well: There is showing off, and there is self-reliance. I have cooked paella for 50 on a Weber grill, never having once attempted to prepare the dish even on the stove before. I have marched past the pizzeria on the way home from a long day at work and the gym and been perfectly satisfied picking at steamed broccoli over seasoned sushi rice, standing alone at the kitchen counter while listening to the evening news. One gets you respect, one gets you fed. Both bring joy.