Risk-taking in the kitchen

I, too, have three pairs of alarmingly white hands with which I prepare raw produce on a dangerously small exotic wood cutting board.

This isn’t my kitchen. This probably isn’t even a kitchen, and those hands definitely aren’t really prepping food, because if they were they would be stained pink from the beets. It is a beautiful picture though, and that’s why we share it– it feels good to look at, but it does nothing to teach us about food.

Home cooking isn’t like Instagram cooking. It is messy and imperfect, full of second-guessing recipes and last-minute substitutions, forgetting how many cups of flour you added and not being entirely sure if that was baking soda or salt you added to the pasta water. The uncertainty of trying out a new recipe can be a strong deterrent to expanding our repertoires in the kitchen, and so most of us recycle the same 7 recipes over and over to avoid that anxiety. When we do try something new, it’s often for a special occasion which increases the pressure to perform well, and also the likelihood of making mistakes. So in our daily lives, we tend to stick to the familiar. It’s comfortable and functional, but it doesn’t make space for us to grow.

The skills required to cook well aren’t easily relayed in images, and they are pretty tough to describe in words. Like all things we do with our bodies, cooking is something we learn by doing. But we soak up #foodporn like it could nourish us without ever having to step foot in the kitchen. It’s easier to fantasize along with someone else’s cooking experiments and expertise than to face that risk of failure and try it yourself.

If you want to learn to cook well, you need to set aside time and resources for risk-taking. This will go considerably better if you cultivate an attitude of curiosity rather than criticism. Instead of “I can’t do that,” try “what if I just follow the instructions and see how it goes?”. Instead of seeing your #cookingfails as personal failures, try acknowledging that getting it wrong is the first step to getting it right, and congratulate yourself for trying.

When you’re reading about food on the internet and looking up recipes online, remember that you are trying to learn a complicated thing in the least effective way possible. Practice self-compassion. And remember, social media lies <3

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