Please Try This at Home


At a book party the other night, I met a 20-something man who works in the cookbook department of a major publishing firm. We started talking about why young people in New York don't seem to cook anymore. "It's because of the super small kitchens," he said. "Mine is like a shoebox." "But my college roommate used to produce three-course meals out of an electric rice cooker," I protested. "Well, it's hard when you don't have the right equipment." "Doesn't the Mark Bittman article dispel that myth?" chimed in a fellow 30-something regular cook. "But it's hard and expensive to eat the way I like to," he said. "I like to do eight-course tasting menus, and I have barely any room..." "You do WHAT?" I asked. When did this happen, exactly? How did the act of feeding ourselves, something that birds and bees do as a matter of course, get fetishized to the point where people feel that if you can't channel Thomas Keller, there's no point to turning on the stove?

Years ago, I attended culinary school for professional reasons, but I must say it barely changed the way I cook at home. Restaurant cooking and home cooking are—and should be—very different. The beauty of home cooking is its simplicity, how it bears the fingerprint of its cook in a much more pronounced way than in a restaurant; after all, it represents the effort of just one person, rather than a whole team. And cooking simple meals for yourself regularly is what turns you into a great cook—not weeks of takeout interspersed with rare moments of having friends over for culinary feats of strength. "When I have company, I usually make what I would normally make for myself, but more of it," food editor Maggie Ruggiero once said to me, and I couldn't agree more with her sentiment. Take note: When great chefs wax poetic about their favorite dishes, they most often mention things like roast chicken, an omelet, or a great steak—sous vide this with an emulsion of that and coulis three ways might make interesting novelties when dining out, but thinking that this is the only way to eat will only serve to disconnect you even more from your food. So stop putting so much pressure on yourself and stop making excuses—every omelet you make will bring you one step closer to becoming the cook you want to be.

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