587: First Cooking

What was the first thing you learned to cook?


Full episode script

Ok, right off the bat today I’m going to admit that I’m biased here, to put it gently. My mom ran a catering business for a very long time, and now is a middle school foods teacher. I grew up around, surrounded by, and constantly experimenting with food, even after a few batches of sugar cookies that got a cup of salt instead of sugar.

 

But – as we’ve talked about in previous episodes, the whole process of learning to cook is one that many different people experience at different points in their lives, and with different levels of instruction. Some kids learn to cook full ten course meals by the time they are ten years old. Other times, it’s a 40 year old individual trying out something basic for the first time. Neither one is more or less valuable of an experience than the other — they are just different.

 

And there is some definite research out there saying that when you learn to cook, your experience of food tends to change. Most of that research is focused around kids, but the same rings true for adults. One 2013 study found that students who were taught a cooking curriculum showed a preference for more fruits and vegetables in their diets, and self-reported higher self-efficacy about cooking related topics.

 

As far as what that first thing that you learn to cook — or that you teach someone to cook – should be? Opinions, not surprisingly, vary pretty widely. Food and Wine magazine asked a bunch of chefs their opinion of what a beginning chef should master, for example. Two responses from that article were, quote:

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a Fried Egg

“You learn temperature control, working with butter and not burning it, caramelization, that you can screw up easily if you don’t control temperature and egg cookery,” says Hawaii chef Robert McGee.

Pizza

“I wouldn’t be afraid to jump in there and get your hands dirty,” says chef Matt Jennings of Boston’s forthcoming Townsman. “Any dough, whether bread or pasta or gnocchi or dumplings—that’s probably the best way to start. As a kid I used to have pizza nights with my dad. We would turn the kitchen into a complete disaster. I’d end up with flour in my pockets the next day at school. But that’s part of cooking—you’ve got to be able to jump in and enjoy it.”

 

When Huffington Post asked their Facebook followers a similar question, eggs made quite a few appearances in that list, too — though so did hummus, oatmeal, chili, lentil soup, and more.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.