I have been a professional cooking instructor for several years and during this time I have seen and heard it all. I have seen students nearly chop off fingers and taught people who never in their lives touched or smelled let alone cooked with fresh herbs. I see students wearing flip flops to work in a professional kitchen and become astounded at the thought such footwear is dangerous. I have had people get angry with me when I insist they wash their hands after blowing their nose! I am NOT kidding about the last one either. I have even been the horrified witness of a person getting hair torn out in a freak electric mixer incident! The most prevalent thing I see however is the way students in a kitchen feel like they are not in charge.
Have you ever felt like someone is watching over your shoulder when you cook? Have you ever felt self-conscience when you're alone in your own kitchen? Now, magnify that by 100 and you're on to how a great majority of people feel when cooking. Why is this? Even I fall victim to it. A lot of us cook like we are being watched. I think it's because we get caught up in the fake world of picture perfect television food. Food that NEVER needs the faintest touch of additional salt, NEVER sticks or burns and is ALWAYS gorgeous. People feel badly about themselves and their cooking ability and feel like their cooking is 'not good enough'! See? NOT in control! Most people, I find, DO NOT control their cooking but rather let the cooking control them. Cooking should be fun and cooking should be comfortable. The way we stand to clean, prepare and cook our food matters and is important. Keeping our equipment maintained is important ad well. Have you ever noticed when you're chopping your shoulders are in your ears? A slow and persistent ache sets in you may not even notice because it is slow and persistent. Maybe your hands begin to hurt too. Good tips for a novice are: When cooking, 1. pull your stomach in, 2. pull your shoulders back, 3. hold the knife correctly, 4. position the cutting board to an angle you like. Follow these tips and I bet the aches and pains stop or never begin in the first place. Additionally, 5.be organized and 6. be clean. Also, 7. Read a recipe through to its end and 8. gather ingredients and equipment you need before beginning and finally, 9. have a plan. Nine easy to follow tips to becoming a better and in charge home chef.
The average home cook, especially a novice one, has terrible posture and equipment placement. Sometimes they stand with their hips jutting out at a disco angle with one foot out to the side and the other facing the counter. Sometimes the angle of the board is to blame or the way the knife is held. Perhaps the knife is dull which makes cutting properly both more difficult and less safe.
To hold a knife properly and comfortably, here is what you do:
Pick up the knife with your index finger and thumb pinching the blade at the point where it is closest to the handle.
Keep your remaining three fingers out of the way.
The handle should rest on the padded, softie part of your hand; not the boney center bit.
Try it and I think you will notice an improvement.
I recommend using zucchini squash to practice knife skills because it's not too soft and not too hard.
Many older people and people with arthritis end up giving up cooking altogether because of pain. Try the above tips if pain is preventing you from preparing food. I hope they help. Cooking can be such a source of joy and is a great way to show someone you care. Take back your kitchen! How? Be mindful in the kitchen. Mindful of your body and your equipment. Be careful and clean. Be the boss in your kitchen and take charge!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor