Many people have never been taught, basic, fundamental cooking skills. This is sad. Food is how we stay alive. I am grateful that I was taught the basics, I knew how to make pasta or cook a piece of chicken. Not that I was or am a great chef, but I can follow a recipe.
In Norway eating out is not common – so you have to cook. I believe this is for two reasons: 1) Eating out is costly. If you go to McD’s or a nice cafe, a sandwich and drink will cost you around 150 NOK ($25 US). 2) Eating with the family is a big deal. This is something that we lost years ago in the States, here it is the normal thing to sit down every day for family dinner. It is still very common to have Sunday dinner with the whole family, which I think is lovely! In my first months in Norway (summer thankfully), I would be out walking around and loved the sight: whole families sitting on the patio eating together and other houses I could see families cooking together. Now this is not to say that they are all eating healthy foods, but I would venture to guess the majority of them were – they are so healthy here compared to my American upbringing.
Huffington Post did a facebook survey “What stops you from cooking”, here are the summarized reasons:
1. Basic skills and familiarity with ingredients. Even though more farmers markets are popping up, once we buy an ingredient, we’re stuck not knowing how to prepare it.
2. Tools — Not having a kitchen stocked with the basics can make cooking an onerous, displeasing experience.
3. We’re whipped for convenience and our values are misaligned; we’re spending more time on Twitter than at the cutting board.
4. It’s not fun to shop. We’re too confused by too many choices and going to the grocery store is not a pleasurable, relaxing experience.
5. Prep time, clean-up and counter space: too long, too long and not enough.
I suggest reading the whole article, it is very interesting – read it here.
I have felt all of these to and wanted to order a pizza for dinner at times. But we are trying to be healthy, so while ordering a pizza is not the end of the world – we should do it on occasion. So I am going to tackle some of these myself!
1. Knowing food and how to prepare it
We need to familiarize ourselves with ingredients. I dont not mean learn them all, but you basics. Walk through your local grocery and read the signs above the fruit and veggies. If you dont know what they are make a list and go home to google it. With google having such a vast amount of knowledge, there is not excuses for saying you dont know how anymore. Your local grocery is not going to have crazy exotic fruit and veggies, so this would be a easy basic playing field. Same goes for cuts of meat. Maybe you see something on sale, and want to buy it but don’t know what it is. Ask the butchers working behind the meat counter, I am sure they would be more then happy to tell you what it is and give you an idea on how to cook it.
Another great way to become familiar with ingredients is to search out a recipe that sounds yummy – then make it. There are many great websites like Jamie Oliver, the Food Network and All Recipe’s. Jump on a recipe site, type in what sounds good for dinner – like chicken – and see what comes up. Make a shopping list, go to the store – ask for help if you need it to find certain ingredients, there is no harm in asking – and then test out the recipe. You will probably have mistakes like all of us do – you burnt something or added to much salt – but it is a learning process, keep trying!
2. Tools! What do we really need in the kitchen?
I do not have everything that he mentions in the video, but I am working up to it! I still need a food processor, siv and some more trays. He is doing some specific cooking for this how to video that you might not do – ie. pastry. But, I think that this is a great overview of what to have.
3. Making the time for food and health
Life is busy. I know that. But it boils down to do you want to live a longer, more productive and energetic life – or do you want to shave years of your life because you did not want to wait 30 minutes for your dinner. Eating wholesome foods that have not been packed with preservatives, artificial taste and colors will make a difference in your life. LIke they said above.. our priorities are out of wack – we think it is ok to spend 30 minutes stalking our friends on facebook or twitter, but 30 minutes is to much to invest in cooking a meal for our own health.
4. Find a smaller grocery
Shopping can be fun if you make it fun. It does not have to be going to six-flags fun – but think of it as something that has to be done, so make the best of it. If you are shopping by yourself take your mp3 player, if your shopping with kids – make a game out of it. Just like everything else you are learning, it will get easier with time – all the ingredients will become known to you. One tip for shopping that I have learned since living in Norway is that the bigger the store does not always mean the better. We do not have many super stores here in Norway – In my town we have one large walmart sized store. There are a slew of medium to small sized stores – think the toy section of a walmart supercenter – that have just what you need. Most of the store here will have only 2 options. If you need orange juice – there are just a few options, not a whole isle. This makes it very easy to shop – you go in with your list and it is a this or that sorta thing. I suggest that if going to the store is to much of a hassle for you because it is to big and there are too many options – then find a smaller local store or a local farmers market. I know back home in OKC we had many smaller then walmart stores, that had just food – they were much easier to run into because there were not parking issues and it was an easy selection.
5. Clean as you cook
There is nothing worse than making a great yummy looking dinner to turn around to a kitchen that looks like it has been hit by a tornado. The best tip that I was ever give is to clean as you cook. I am guilty of not always doing this, but when I do it makes all the difference. If you are done chopping up the veggies, instead of pushing the cutting board aside and letting it take up your precious counter space – take the extra 5 second to turn and drop it in the sink or washer. While you have ‘down time’ when something is coming to a boil or baking in the oven – clean up the counters, load the dishwasher, or set the table – just don’t forget to check in on said food. The majority of cooking is going to have at least a few minutes of ‘downtime’ – take advantage of it instead of checking your facebook or the tv.
If the mess of cooking is to daunting, look for one pot meals. One pot meals are generally easy and clean. The best example I have and love to make is pork chops. It takes just a large cooking tray or dish, oil it and add the meat. I use a small knife and cutting board to chop up some veggies and add them to the top of the meat. Then into the oven it goes. The only dishes used are the baking dish, a knife, cutting board and plates to eat – there is no mess on the counter or stove top – simple, clean and easy! Same can be done with chicken, fish or beef.
If you are like me and wanting to relearn or learn cooking skills to help your life, get on Jamie Oliver’s ‘Home Cooking Skills‘ website. The site is to help the schools in the UK, but there is no reason that all the resources and videos there can not be beneficial to us. I have been learning loads from it!