Start a cooking adventure to improve skills

Published 6:03 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

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To be honest, I’ve never considered myself a great cook. Or even a good cook for that matter.

When I was a kid, cooking didn’t interest me, so I never did much to try to learn. Even baking – despite getting a delicious dessert at the end of the process – was not all that fun for me. I’m a creature of habit, so I tend to go for the easiest things to eat. In middle school, for example, I remember one year when I wanted to eat spaghettios almost every day for lunch. In hindsight, not a good decision! I still can hardly stomach them now, all these years later.

Even when I was in college and had a kitchen to utilize for whatever I wanted to cook, I generally stuck to what I called the “Three P’s”: pasta, peanut butter sandwiches, and pizza rolls. Again, in hindsight, not a good decision! That’s not exactly the healthiest combination of foods, especially when you’re not pairing it with much else.

But isn’t it interesting how we change over the years as we get older? Things that we didn’t care for as a kid sometimes become something we want to try as adults. For the past few months, I’ve made an effort to become a better cook and try new things (maybe even some things the younger, pickier eater Holly would have turned her nose up at).

My cooking journey, however, didn’t start as something intentional. I’d attempted a few times before to sort through some of Mom’s collection of old cookbooks to find things I wanted to try, taking note of a few casseroles here and there. But none of those really sounded appealing enough to make the effort, and the recipes just collected dust in my kitchen.

Then, not too long ago, I remembered a Japanese dish my college friends had made a few times. It was pretty simple and similar to stew beef, though the flavor was a bit different. With the intent of recreating that old memory, I searched the internet for a recipe, crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be too complex for my cooking skill level.

What I found was a whole website of Japanese recipes, each one with nice detailed instructions and photos of every step along the way, which was perfect for a beginner like me. It was so different than the old cookbooks I had been looking through.

But what really made the difference was that the recipe also had a link to a YouTube video. It was a helpful way to visualize all the steps I’d have to do if I wanted to attempt the Japanese stew, even providing helpful tips on the best ways to slice and dice the carrots and potatoes necessary for the dish. After that, I felt confident enough to try it out myself.

The result didn’t taste quite the same as what I remembered from college, but it was still a good-tasting meal to me anyway. There was a lovely sense of accomplishment when I sat down to eat that day.

And after that, my “cooking journey” was in full swing.

After a long day, it was relaxing to just sit down and browse through other videos from that same recipe website. Some reminded me of things I’d eaten before; others were completely new and intriguing to learn more about. I saved the ones that looked simple enough to try, and that didn’t require a bunch of ingredients I couldn’t find at the grocery store. And I watched plenty more that I won’t attempt, but enjoyed watching the process anyway.

Of course, like any other website these days, YouTube started recommending more cooking videos that I “might be interested in.” And, since I was already excited to try more things, I’ve been sucked into the rabbit hole of watching a lot of them.

I’ve found it entertaining to see the different ways these cooks try to catch people’s attention. Sometimes they’ll title the video something dramatic like “easy recipe to CHANGE YOUR LIFE!” Some videos do compilations of recipes, such as “five 15-minute pasta dishes.” (I admit, I click on these every single time!) Some cooks will narrate their videos while others will silently cook and add subtitles instead. Every now and then, a few will get their kids to help out with a recipe, which can be quite adorable.

Every cook has their own quirk, I think.

Anyway, now that I’ve been searching for more recipes and watching more videos, there are a lot of things I suddenly want to try. I still don’t think I’m a very good cook, but I’m making progress. And the idea of going to the kitchen and tackling a new recipe isn’t so daunting. I even planted more things in my garden this year in anticipation of having new ways to cook them all.

I guess the point of my story this week is this: I could have learned better cooking skills at any time, whether that was from my mom or by sorting through recipe books. But none of those methods ever seemed to work for me in the past. It was only when I started expanding my options that I found what worked best for me. I reframed my thinking, changing cooking from “a boring task I wasn’t good at” to “a fun challenge to tackle.”

I, unfortunately, haven’t found a way yet to reframe washing dishes into something more fun!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.