This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.
ANYONE CAN LEARN TO COOK WITH SOME BASIC COOKING LESSONS AND SIMPLE COOKING TIPS
I grew up in a household with very a clear division of labor when it came to the household chores done by my parents. My mother did everything inside of the house and my father did everything outside.
The kitchen and all of the food that passed through it was my mother’s domain.
If my dad was home when my mom returned from the grocery store he would help carry the bags from the trunk of the car into the kitchen, but that’s as close as he ever came to putting a meal on the table.
I never saw him cook anything. On a few occasions I believe he made himself a sandwich.
Then after 52 years of marriage and eating the three meals a day my mother prepared for him, she died suddenly. How was my dad ever going to able to fend for himself in the kitchen?
If this sounds familiar, or possible, in your world, I’ve got a great Father’s Day gift idea for you. Teach your dad (husband, boyfriend, son) to cook. In fact, everyone you care about should learn to cook.
Here’s how I taught my dad to cook.
Cooking Tips For All First-Time Cooks
My dad’s cooking lessons did not begin with a cutting board and knife. They began with a pad and pencil.
Cooking requires planning.
Even though there was plenty of food in the house when my mother died, my father had no idea what was on hand or what to do with all those random ingredients in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. To figure it out and provide a template for his future food shopping trips, I divided a piece of paper into six sections and headed them according to the basic food groups:
Once we completed the inventory, we were able to plan a menu for the coming week using simple recipes I found online. (My mother’s cookbooks and recipe card index were no help.) As we reviewed each recipe I showed him what pot or pan they called for and any small appliances mentioned. We then made a shopping list of what was needed to execute the week’s menu.
Navigating the grocery store was the next lesson in my dad’s training program. Unlike the chefs in those well-stocked kitchens on the cooking shows he loved to watch, if he wanted to learn to cook he had to buy the food. It definitely helped to have the shopping list arranged according to the store layout and cross off things as they went into the cart.
Learning how to properly store all the groceries when we got them home was an equally important lesson. All this happened before he actually prepared anything he could eat.
Cooking 101: Skills for a Lifetime
One of the skills my dad had going for him when his cooking lessons began was that he could carve a roasted turkey. I decided to build on his knife skills and teach him to cut, chop, slice and dice a variety of vegetables. Once he could do that, it was a natural progression for him to learn how to sauté those vegetables.
Sautéing vegetables led to sautéing meats, which led to making finishing sauces in the pan. He could now make pork chops smothered in onions, skillet chili and a chicken and broccoli stir-fry.
The skills we focused on after that were ones that allowed him to make the foods he liked best. Since he enjoyed stews, he learned to use the slow-cooker. He also liked pancakes, so learned to measure and mix the batter (but not over mix) and use the electric griddle. And since he didn’t like pasta, he didn’t need instructions for the colander.