It’s a crazy world out there. Every day we have idiotic messages telling us that we should be thinner, prettier, more successful, aim higher, work hard, party harder... the list goes on! My poor lil’ subconscious is bombarded with thousands of subliminal messages that insist it be the embodiment of human perfection in every way. Alas, I’m only human and the pressure is too much. But what does this have to do with the all-important food in my life? There seems to be a lot of pressure on turning out “perfect” food just like the glossy, soft-focus pictures you see on food channels. I am not perfect and the food I cook is not meant to be perfect. Like the title of my article says: I’m no Chef Ramsay but I love to cook! So for the happy novice cooks out there in the big bad world, who are more passionate about the process and place emphasis on creativity, this one’s for you.
Seriously, be happy!
There’s a reason I’m not on television, I don’t want to be a stark raving crazy who screams at everyone around him. Chef Ramsay has earned the distinction of being among the finest chefs in the world and being yelled at from that source may not be as traumatizing as it appears on telly, but I’m a faint-hearted one (Goes back to emphasizing why I’m not on TV!) I love to be happy when I cook and that applies to the whole process. Happiness as an ingredient is vital in my recipe book. Call it holistic cooking or any other term classified as psychobabble, when you’re happy, you cook better. And the final outcome may taste the same as any perfectly measured and timed recipe but just a dash of happiness goes a long way for your own personal satisfaction.
Ain’t no shame in asking for help
There’s nothing wrong in looking up a recipe online or digging into your recipe books. And for those cooks who can whip up something without a thought in the world, you’re truly awesome. And for the ones who need direction and instruction, read my lips: there’s nothing wrong in getting help! Ask your mom, your friendly neighbour, your colleague at work, your friends who are not neighbours or your dog (okay, maybe the last one is a stretch) but asking for a recipe only helps you learn and fine tune your own recipe. There’ll be times where a recipe comes easily to you without having to whip up a big recipe book and for all the other times... you’ve guessed it... ask for help!
Perfection is over rated
Don’t mistake the above for the rumblings of a sore loser. I’m a self-confessed perfectionist but there’s something very humbling about cooking. It teaches you to accept the unexpected, for instance, when a chocolate brownie tastes more like a chocolate cake! (Yep, it’s happened...)
Enjoy the process. Enjoy the creativity and don’t worry about the recipe turning out just like your mom made it. If it’s your first attempt, be happy with your achievements. If it’s a downright disaster and your butter chicken tastes like chicken which has been mercilessly doused and tortured in butter, then you have something to worry about. But for other times, there’s something to be happy about: the texture of the gravy and consistency, the spices and flavourings, the texture and taste of the meat, seasonings, the marinade – you can find lots to improve but still find something that turned out right. Don’t be discouraged by your failures, but find ways to make the recipe your own. Add a dash of your “secret” ingredient to create an unforgettable flavour or reduce some of the cream and fats to make it a healthier meal, there’s several ways to personalize your recipe and not every dish has to taste like it’s been delivered from the holy kitchens of a Susur Lee!
Try, try, try
It’s the mother of all clichés, but practice really does make you perfect. Start slowly and build your repertoire of signature dishes gradually. Tune in to television channels on food, read recipes online, follow instructions on cooking labels – all of them teach you a little something to get better. Once you’ve mastered a few basics, your confidence soars and then you’re willing to try out new recipes or improvise on old favourites. Don’t be shy to try out new things and experiment with food – as long as its edible, you really can’t go too wrong!