Cooking for Beginners – What the Books Don’t Tell You

Caitlin Hall

My parents hate cooking. As a child my dinners came straight from the oven – turkey dinosaurs and potato waffles galore. When they came home from a long day at work, the last thing they wanted to do was toil away in the kitchen, and I was fine with that. 

At university, I was shocked to find my twelve-person flat filled with chefs, and only three of us subscribing to the Super Noodle-loving student stereotype. Overwhelmed by my fear-of-missing-out, I learnt how to make chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognese – without chicken, for fear of salmonella poisoning. I arrived at uni unable to chop an onion but had an enduring persistence to learn, and now cooking is one of my favourite hobbies.

Dabbling in the art of cooking is not the easiest feat if you’re a newbie. Many traditional cookbooks want you to have the whole Schwartz spice range for a simple soup, along with a huge inventory of John Lewis cookware. If all you have is a single pan and a shabby oven, you’ll probably be at a disadvantage. Beginner’s recipe books exist, such as ones specifically for students, which give ground-breaking tips on how to make beans on toast and explain what a spatula is. Cookbooks seem to be either patronising or impenetrable. 

Money can be a huge barrier to cooking and healthy eating in general; an entire trolley of fresh vegetables definitely adds up when you get to the checkout, while a frozen pizza is under one pound. Time is yet another reason people turn to the microwave rather than the chopping board. Many recipes demand a different bowl for each stage of preparation, equating to a mountain of washing up which just isn’t feasible for those working full-time jobs, looking for a quick and easy meal. 

There has been greater emphasis on the importance of cheap food, as well as knowing what to do with it. Locally in York, Tang Hall Community Centre has informal workshops to help their residents learn how to cook a healthy meal. I know that Simply Cook intensified my love for cooking earlier last year, with four spice boxes for ‘restaurant quality’ meals that boast a maximum of six ingredients. You buy the food yourself, meaning you can swap out anything you’re not keen on and experiment – which for me is part of the fun of cooking. Each meal takes under thirty minutes in total to prepare and cook, and (usually) ends up tasting delicious. 

Food can be easy, or cheap, or delicious, but rarely all three. Some will always choose the humble Pot Noodle. But, the food industry has begun to make it easier and more enjoyable for us to fill our bellies with some great food.

Categories: Literature

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