If you’re anything at all like me, during hectic work weeks, breakfast is a quick bite before you run out the door, lunch a takeout salad (I should have an equity stake in the Whole Foods salad bar by now) and dinner a salmon roll on the fly. But now that summer’s here, hopefully we’ll all get a chance to relax a bit and spend more time thinking about what we’re eating. Since this column is about easing your way into the culinary arts, let’s get started on motivating ourselves to get started, also known as learning to cook without leaving the couch or turning on the Food Network.
Read food writers. In college, I was a monthly Vogue subscriber. As much as I enjoyed articles on microdermabrasion trends and socialites’ destination weddings, I quickly discovered that hidden between the Helmut Lang ads was one of the best food writers working today, Jeffrey Steingarten. A former lawyer, he approaches pizza or lobster rolls or turducken with investigative gusto. The results? Delighted readers and the knowledge that the perfect pizza must be cooked at at least 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Learn from the best.
Follow the food tag on Tumblr. If you have a Tumblr account (and if not, why not already?), this should be simple. If you’re looking for recipes, there’s a range of quality (and sometimes a lot of cheesecake pictures of, well, cheesecake). But many of these posts will be from neophyte cooks offering simple recipes that don’t require a ton of skill.
Pin your way to dinner. True confession: I’m not a huge Pinterest fan. But if inspiration is your goal, don’t rush past this site. There are a kamillion pictures to browse through and pin to your own board for later. You may never get around to some (or any?) but they’re just so pretty!
Kick it old school and browse cookbooks. I love to read, but bookstores can be overwhelming sometimes (so many books! What to read?). I once had to kill time in a 68,000 square foot bookstore in Dubai (#humblebrag) and ended up spending a good 45 minutes learning the ins and outs of British puddings. Ask me sometime about the difference between a pudding, cake and sponge. Or better yet, come over for syllabub!
Follow awesome food blogs. Every day I am thankful for the internet in so many ways, but the proliferation of food blogs of every style and topic is one of my most favorite things. For recipes, the incomparable Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks and The Pioneer Woman for American classics. Or check out A Passion for Food on eating beautifully, Eating in Translation for off-the-radar food joints, The Amateur Gourmet for practical, helpful tips and Milk and Mode for overworked urbanites just like us.
Go shopping. This one you have to be careful with, but could work for the more adventurous (and to all of us…let’s be willing to fail in the kitchen!). If you go with a strict budget and a vague idea (“lunch”, “dessert”, “potluck picnic”), pick out a couple cool and/or unfamiliar on-sale, in-season ingredients. When you get home, use any of the above methods to find a good looking recipe and experiment! Caveat: this could be a disaster. But you could also discover something amazing!
So take a moment or two and get inspired! Next week: let’s make dinner together you guys!