I read several “simple living” and finance blogs that tout cooking at home as one of the biggest ways to save money. You can find great tips on saving money on groceries, growing your own vegetables, and creating a weekly menu. Of course these sites also offer tons of recipe ideas. While this is all important, I think one of the biggest missing components is the importance of actually learning to cook! If the end result is a tasteless meal that makes you crave restaurant food, what’s the point?
Reading recipes (or watching cooking shows) is NOT a substitute for hands-on learning with a knowledgeable cook. If reading about something was enough, then we could all become Shakespeare scholars just by reading a few of his plays, right? Or you could look at work-out photos in a fitness magazine and do all the moves correctly? Not really. Most likely you’ll end up with a headache trying to figure out Shakespearean English and a bummed knee.
My point is that while you can learn a great deal from reading about a subject on your own, nothing replaces learning and getting feedback from a qualified instructor. A good teacher can give you valuable pointers, correct mistakes, and show you how something should turn out.
A recent New York Times article about cooking, or lack of, included these interesting stats:
“Research by the NPD Group showed that Americans ate takeout meals an average of 125 times a year in 2008, up from 72 a year in 1983. And a recent U.C.L.A. study of 32 working families found that the subjects viewed cooking from scratch as a kind of rarefied hobby.”
In other words, despite the proliferation of cooking shows, lifestyle/cooking magazines and websites and best-selling cookbooks, there is still a huge gap between our desires (to cook) and reality. So my advice? Sign up for a few cooking lessons — the investment is worth it. Or make friends with a good cook and make a nuisance of yourself!