Why are we so afraid, uncomfortable and apologetic in our own kitchens? There's nobody watching us... The kitchen cooking police are not going to come dropping down out of our ceilings on wires (like in the movies) and arrest us... our mother-in-law's are not coming to visit... we have no one to impress, except ourselves. So why is it the vast majority of us are afraid and uncomfortable in our kitchen?
I ponder this question quite often. As a professional cook and instructor, I think I've seen it all! I've seen my students blissfully chopping away, oblivious to the fact they are only one chop away from mistaking their finger for a carrot. I myself have nearly burned off my eyebrows and eyelashes while flambéing pork chops, regardless of the fact I've flambéed food dozens upon dozens of times, on purpose even. I have seen students panic when their sauce curdles. In plain language people. ALL of what happens in your kitchen, "good" and "scary" is an opportunity to learn! ONLY through doing can you improve, progress and learn!
Don't be stymied by the thought or even the probability of failure, DO the recipe anyway. Like Yoda says, "Try not... There is only DO!" or something close to that. I am YOUR Yoda! Stay with me dear readers...
I am a very confident cook. What makes me confident? Well, I like to experiment, rarely follow (or need to follow for that matter) a recipe and possess excellent knife skills. However, the minute my husband's boss steps a toenail over our threshold, all my skills go down the drain along with my confidence. I do not know why this is because he is a very nice man and we've known him for years. But, dear readers, he is like kryptonite to my kitchen skills! The dish (side dish really) in particular I seem not to be able to make, is rice. Normally, I'm extremely talented at making rice. I follow a simple formula handed down for generations and then I toss that out the window and improvise (and like most anybody who makes rice, hope for the best) because, well, it's what I DO.
I bring 2 cups of water to the boil. I add 1 cup of rice (Jasmine or Basmati are family favs) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. When the water returns to the boil, I stir the mixture, cover the pot and lower the heat to low. After about 20 minutes of cooking time, I fluff the grains with a fork. If there is a touch too much moisture, I replace the lid but this time slightly ajar and allow the rice to cook some more until (hopefully) I remember to serve it at dinner.
Sounds easy enough right? Enter, the boss. You'd think I was smart enough to just take the easy way out - just don't serve rice when 'the boss' comes to dinner. I don't know what it is but whenever that man comes to dinner rice is always on the menu and I see no other way around it... I say embrace the sticky and MoveOn!
But seriously, why do we question ourselves in our kitchens? I think it's because, at our core, we want to "please", we want to "excel", we want to "compete" and "win." In the case of cooking we are competing against ourselves and I think that's why we, often times, set ourselves up to fail.
Cook from the heart people, not the head. Your heart will not fail you but your head will. Don't "overthink" when cooking. Absolutely, most definitely, cook out of your comfort zone because cooking out of your comfort zone is the only way to improve your skills and your knowledge and your confidence! Especially around the holidays, I make dishes I've never made before, at least one or more. It's super fun to do and keeps me moving forward as a cook. Try it! No one is looking!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor