It’s All About Baby Steps

If you’ve ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It’s so obvious that they lack both the skills and the 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 a bit challenging for me as well. What’s even worse is they take away their recipes and the notes they take from the chef’s demos. I know, it’s just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but that said, this is not how you should teach people to cook.

Cooking, like any other skill, takes time to master, and if you’re teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the very 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, and to make 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 good place to start teaching a novice how to cook. And since it’s hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence starts to build. 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 start teaching a beginner how to follow a recipe, and since it’s a prepackaged kit it too is hard to go wrong, so the novice’s self confidence keeps building. From there they can start to learn more complex recipes–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. Some will have more of a natural talent than others, and those who demonstrate a particularly strong talent or desire for cooking or baking may end up becoming professional chefs, although most won’t take it that far. This is true of most things in life. Cooking, however, is a life skill, so we all need to be taught the basics, such as learning how to make scrambled eggs or beef stew.

My thought for the day.