Since the 1950's and the rise of convenience foods and fast food restaurants the knowledge of how to cook is beginning to disappear. Many people just don't know how to cook from scratch.
Pancakes are made from mix, mash potatoes from dried flakes and cookies are cut from plastic tubes of dough.
When women set off to the work force in droves in the 70's a market opened up to feed on their guilt that they were not being good mother's or wives and that could all be solved by convenience foods. This was the first generation of women who struggled to do it all.
Advertisers continually harp on us that cooking from scratch is not only hard, but time consuming and ridiculous to try.
Isn't it time for you to find out that cooking from scratch can be easy, fast and cheap?
Advertisers love to give the impression that cooking anything from scratch is a dirty, time consuming process that is probably not going to produce anything good any way. They also love to stress about convenience as people live busy lives.
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Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2011
Learning to cook well and fast does take a bit of time but so does anything worth while in life. The BIG secret about cooking from scratch? There are many time that you just gather all the ingredients together in a pot, or pan and let them cook slowly while you do other things in the home.
You don't need a lot of fancy shamcy equipment to cook. An oven and stove top, pots and pans, knives to cut with and a cutting board will get you started.
What would be the best item to start with? Probably a medium sized pot of good quality, a frying pan, large spoon, slotted spoon, spatula, measuring cups and spoons, an all purpose serrated cutting knife and a cutting board. (If you are a master of scratch cooking I would love to know what your list would be).
As you try more recipes you will find that there are certain pots and pans that you will need and prefer.
If you are really interested in learning how to bake from scratch depending on what you want to make you will need some specialty pans such as muffin pans, cookie sheets or cake pans.
Probably the biggest fear of people who don't know how to cook is that they are going to poison themselves. Yes, I suppose this could happen if you don't know how to follow basic kitchen food safety rules but if you are sensible and careful you will have nothing to worry about.
- Remove your rings and wash your hands before handling any food
- All meats and dairy must stay refrigerated until they are ready to use or cook
- Do not eat any foods that have gone past their best before date
- Only work on clean surfaces, you can wash your counters with any commercial cleaner and then wipe them down with 10 parts water 1 part bleach solution to make sure they are bacteria free.
- Never cut raw meat and vegetables on the same cutting board.
- Wash your cutting boards and kitchen utensils thoroughly with hot water and dish soap
You can save an enormous amount of money from cooking from scratch especially if you have bought basic items like flour, potatoes, rice and meats on sale.
You are also eating better because you are controlling the quality of the ingredients that are going into the meal. The video on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is eye opening about what is allowed in ground beef, "70% of America's ground beef contains leftover cow parts (a.k.a. "pink slime") containing e.coli and salmonella that has been treated with ammonia".
You will be healthier if you eat better quality food.
Your great great grand mother probably had time honored recipes that had been passed down from generation to generation, your great grandmother probably studied magazines for cooking ideas and your grandmother probably had a favorite cook book she always used.
In this generation our best friend is the internet. I would guess that by far there are more discussion about food and recipes on the internet then any other subject. Want to know what temperature to cook chicken at? Google it and you will find hundreds of answers.
Some times, unfortunately, some recipes on the internet assume that you already have some cooking knowledge and can be a bit sketchy on instructions. Move onto another source, there are thousands of them out there, until you have a clear idea of how to make what you are cooking.
As you get more confident in the kitchen you will develop your own shortcuts and tricks but for now some of the very basic things you need to know about cooking are:
- Most ovens do not show their true temperature, you really need an oven thermometer to know exactly how hot your oven is ( this is the most common reason baking does not turn out well)
- The cooking times in recipes are at best, an estimate, use a meat thermometer to make sure meats are cooked through.
- Ground beef is one meat that MUST be cooked thoroughly. Bacteria can grow on the surface of meats and since ground beef is all surface it is more susceptible to contamination which thorough cooking will destroy (that's why you can eat steak cooked medium raw or raw, as the outside surface area has been thoroughly cooked).
- Poultry and pork must also be cooked thoroughly to destroy any bacteria.
- Seasonings and spices make your food taste interesting and different. As you go through regional recipes like Mexican you will find that you are using the same spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder etc. over and over again. You can change the amount recipes suggest to suit your own tastes.
- Read recipes thoroughly before you start cooking and make sure that you have all ingredients at hand. There is nothing worse than going to add 1 cup of milk to a recipe and realizing you only have a few drops left in the carton.
A final word is - Enjoy. Baking and cooking can add a lot of pleasure to your life and once you get started you will realize that it is not as hard as all the television commercials make it out to be.
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Photography and Content
Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2011