Saturday, July 28, 2018

It's All About Baby Steps

© Can Stock Photo / roxanabalint
If you've ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on The Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It's so obvious that they lack the skills and self-confidence to prepare the dishes they're being challenged to make. I've been cooking for most of my life, and some of the dishes I've seen on that show would be challenging for me as well. What's even worse is they take away their recipes and their notes from the chef's demos. I know, it's just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but this isn't how you teach people to cook.

Cooking and baking, like any other skill, takes time to master, so if you're teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the basics. When I first started learning how to cook no one expected me to prepare chicken cordon bleu. They expected me to make french toast.

I started out learning how to cook bacon, scrambled eggs and the aforementioned french toast. Then I learned how to make hash browns. Yes, there is a pattern here. Traditional American breakfast foods are some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them the perfect starting place for teaching a novice how to cook. And because it's hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence grows. Beginners can start learning basic knife skills by learning how to prepare salads. I'm no Hamburger Helper fan, but it's a good place to teach a beginner how to follow a recipe and it's pretty much goof-proof. As the novice's self-confidence grows they can learn more complex recipes, such as beef stew, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, and so on.

The same approach applies when teaching someone how to bake. My mother started me with cake mixes and canned icing. From there I worked my way up to the cookie recipes on the back of the chocolate chip packages. Then I learned how to make casseroles. It's all about baby steps. 

Cooking is a life skill. We all have to eat, which means we all need to learn basic food preparation. Not everyone will become a chef, or even a great cook, but anyone can learn how to make simple dishes, such scrambled eggs, french toast, or a grilled cheese sandwich.


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