Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Learn to Love Cooking

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

A recent study found that an amazing 28% of adults don't know how to cook!

25% of people hate cooking because they have to clean up afterwards.

21% say that they don't have time to cook.

66% say that grocery shopping is the most time-consuming household task that they have.

The Bad News: You Need to Cook In Order For Your Children To Learn To Like Healthy Food

It will be very difficult for your children to learn to like healthy food without seeing their parents cooking healthy food.

Unless you're extremely wealthy, you won't be able to afford to buy from restaurants or gourmet delis that serve fresh, healthy food. The inexpensive alternative is fast food restaurants. Fast food restaurants use cheap ingredients with long shelf-lives. They don't use the fresh, healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fresh herbs, and whole grains which make your child healthy. To disguise their cheap, stale ingredients, fast food restaurants add large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt., which make their foods even more unhealthy.

Even if you manage to buy fresh salads and dishes from a healthy deli like Whole Foods, you still won't be teaching your children to cook. It's a sad young adult who ventures into the world without the least idea of how to cook even simple healthy dishes. Even if your child has learned to like healthy food in her childhood, she will have to resort to cheap fast food or processed packaged food as an adult if she doesn't learn how to cook. Watching parents cook is one of the best ways to learn how to cook.

The Good News: You Can Learn to Like Cooking!

Now for the good news. Many confirmed anti-cooks have learned to love cooking. Many people have gone from sickly fast food and ramen eaters to devout watchers of the Food Network.

Jaimie Oliver has converted many adults into cooking enthusiasts simply by persuading them to cook a few simple dishes.

The First Step: Figure Out Why You Don't Like Cooking

The first step to learning to like cooking is to figure out what you don't like about it. Take a moment to imagine yourself about to cook something. What emotions do you feel? Are you afraid? Of what? Are you bored? Are you lonely?

What part of cooking do you dislike the most? Chopping? Juggling a million tasks at once? Cleaning up? The ingratitude of your family? Dealing with leftovers? Shopping at the supermarket? Doing it every single day?

Next, think about what you DO like about cooking. People are complex creatures, and everything has good points and bad points. What parts of cooking do you like? Do you feel proud when you cook something tasty? Do you enjoy the creative process? Do you like eating what you've cooked? Do you enjoy taking a moment away from other responsibilities and cares? Do you like cooking with other people? Do you like baking? Stir-frying? Chopping?

Now that you've figured out what you don't like about cooking, you can find out what to do about it.

I Don't Like to Cook Because I Don't Know How

A hundred years ago, children (or at least girls) were taught to cook at their mother's knee. Not knowing how to cook was as unthinkable as not knowing how to dress yourself.

Sadly, the last few generations have been raised on fast food and processed food. Even those people whose parents fed them home-cooked meals never learned to cook. Parents didn't bother teaching them, assuming, perhaps, that a few home-ec classes would be sufficient.

Boys, unfortunately, are even less likely to learn how to cook than girls. Many intelligent grown men don't know how to boil an egg.

If you don't know how to do something, it isn't fun. And then a vicious circle develops. You don't want to learn because your few attempts were miserable failures. But if you don't practice, you'll never get better.

Here are some tips for learning how to cook:

Watch TV -- The next time you want to have the TV on in the background, choose the Food Network. As you idly look up at the television, you can catch a few techniques on how to chop, boil, or saute. You may even find a dish that looks so delicious that you really want to taste it. And the only way to taste it is…to cook it!

Just try it - Remind yourself that things become more fascinating the more you know about them. Once you learn how to cook, you can branch out into personal experimentation. If you love garlic, you can add clove after clove to your next spaghetti sauce. If you love the potato casserole that your late grandmother used to make, you can try to recreate it at home.

Enlist support - If you have a friend (or spouse!) who is an excellent cook, offer to be their sous chef. Offer to help them if they'll teach you a few tricks. Most people are happy and proud to teach their skills to someone else.

Start out simple -- If you've never cooked before, start with scrambling some eggs. Find a recipe (even for the simple things) and master some techniques. Figure out what happens if the heat is too low. Too high? What spatula works the best?

Use good ingredients -- A simple recipe can taste delicious if it uses good fresh ingredients. Some fresh green beans from the Farmer's Market will taste delicious, even if all you do is boil them and top them with butter.

Don't be afraid -- Some people who don't know how to cook are intimidated by it. Ask yourself "what is the worst that could happen?" You may ruin a dish. No problem -- there are plenty of other days in your life to cook masterpieces!

I Don't Like to Cook Because I'm Not Good At It

This is one of the most frequently mentioned reasons for not liking to cook. Nobody likes to do things they're not good at. If your past experiences with cooking have resulted in soggy stir-fries, burnt eggs, or cookies with the sugar forgotten, you're bound to feel bad about cooking.

Here are some tips for becoming a good cook:

Start with a good recipe - Here's a secret: A lot of cooking depends on starting with a good recipe. You'll feel very proud of yourself if you snag a 5-star rated easy recipe off of All Recipes, and your family and friends rave about it for days. 

Learn basic skills - Another big part of being a good cook is learning some basic skills. A few hours spent in front of the Food Network or a good cooking class can solve this problem.

Concentrate - The final part of being a good cook is to simply pay attention. If you're a bit scatterbrained (as I am) you may find yourself burning the home-fries while you're chopping the vegetables for the omelet. Remember that you're multi-tasking, and keep part of your mind focused on the dish that you aren't attending to right now. 

Practice - Nobody is good at something from the beginning. Keep practicing and you will become better and better. What once seemed mystifying will become something you can do without thinking.

The more you know, the more you like -- Have you ever talked to someone who had a hobby that you knew nothing about? You may have a friend who scrapbooks. You have no interest in scrapbooking...that is, until your friend starts talking about it. You realize that it is art, science, information, and love all tucked together in a book. Talking with an expert makes you realize that there are entire interesting worlds that you know nothing about. And you start to realize what makes the activity so enthralling. This will be true for cooking as well. As you learn more and more, you'll realize all the nuances that you never noticed when you were a cooking novice. You can create your own delicious recipes. The possibilities are endless.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Hate Cleaning Up

Cleaning is an inevitable part of cooking, but here are some tips to reducing your cleaning time:

Reuse dishes -- If food isn't greasy, it often cleans up with a bit of water. You can reuse a plate or bowl for the same person for the rest of the day, as long as there isn't any meat or other bacteria-prone food in it.

Teach kids to load the dishwasher -- Children can learn to rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Teenagers can take on the task of dishwashing once a week or so. More enterprising teenagers may be willing to take on the task for a small fee.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Hate Shopping

If you hate shopping, there are options available:

Use a delivery service -- Online delivery services, like PeaPod can deliver your groceries.

Share shopping with a spouse -- Your spouse may enjoy shopping. Consider trading chores with him or her. You can do something he or she doesn't like in exchange for a relief from grocery shopping. 

I Don't Like To Cook Because It Takes Too Long

Most of us have busy lives. Taking a half hour or more every day to cook dinner can seem impossible. But do you really save that much time eating fast food or processed food?

Here are some tips for cooking FAST meals:

Learn cooking techniques -- Look at a professional chef on the Food Network. They are fast! A good chef can chop an onion in a matter off seconds. You too can learn these quick techniques. Watch cooking shows or take a class and you can greatly speed up chopping, slicing, frying, and other cooking techniques.

Buy some good knives -- A set of good knives is expensive, but definitely worth the investment. Chopping not only becomes much faster, but also much more fun. Trying to chop a carrot with a dull knife is hard work and makes you feel like you're not quite doing it right.

Enlist help from the family - Teaching children to cook is time-consuming, but once they've learned some skills, you have free labor! Most kids love to cook and they'll feel proud helping you in the kitchen. Spouses can also help. If you don't get enough time with the husband (or wife), try cooking meals together. You can talk about the events of the day as you saute.

Buy a crock pot -- A crock pot, or slow cooker, is a plug-in pot that cooks at a slow temperature for hours, even all day. All you have to do is to add the ingredients. It cooks itself!

Don't cook!  -- You can make healthy home-cooked meals without ever heating anything up. Small children, especially, will be happy with a lunch of veggies and dip, fruit, kalamata olives, and square of cheese. It takes no time to put together, and it's way healthier than a McDonald's Happy Meal.

I Don't Like To Cook Because It's Boring

You may find the process of cooking boring. A lot of housework is mundane -- cleaning, vacuuming, doing laundry. Some people see cooking as just one more menial task. This is a pity because cooking can be one of the most enjoyable household chores.

Here are some tips for making cooking more interesting:

Be more creative - If you are stuck in a cooking routine of the same old recipes, you might benefit from trying some new ones. Look online for new ones, or try making changes to the old familiar ones. Maybe some added basil will make your boring casserole into a delicious Italian-tasting original.

Be less creative - Some people deal with routine by spicing things up (literally, in this case) and making them more fun. Others deal with routine by thinking about something else. Stick with a few favorite recipes until you can make them in your sleep. Then crank up the music and enjoy daydreaming as you go through your kitchen routine.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Get Lonely

If you close your eyes and think about why you don't like cooking, you may come up with a surprising reason -- you get lonely when you're cooking! Some people may enjoy the solitude that cooking brings, but others may not like spending a half an hour doing something on their own, especially when the entire task is their own responsibility. Did you like baking cookies with friends when you were a teenager, but hate to venture into the kitchen now? If so, you probably find that cooking is lonely.

Our tribal ancestors prepared food together. While they chopped and cooked, they talked, laughed, sang, and helped each other. It turned cooking from a chore into a party.

Here are some tips for making cooking more social:

Get the kids involved
-- Teach your kids to cook. They will love it, and you won't be so lonely or bored.

Get the spouse involved -- Cook meals together with your spouse. You can work on the same dish, or each of you can make something different.

Get a friend involved
-- If you have a neighborhood friend, you can cook meals together.

I Like Cooking OK, But Not EVERY SINGLE DAY!

You may like cooking, but simply be tired of doing it every day. Some people enjoy the routine of an everyday task, but others feel burdened.

Here are some tips:

Trade cooking with your spouse
- All able-bodied adults in a household should cook! Make sure you and your spouse are both pulling your cooking weight. If your spouse is a kitchen slacker, find out why. Maybe he or she doesn't know how to cook. Perhaps a cooking class would be a good Christmas present. Maybe your spouse assumes that you like cooking. Many married couples naturally gravitate towards separate tasks, not realizing that the other person liked the task at first, but has gotten tired of it over the years.

Use a friend
-- If you have a friend or relative in the neighborhood, try helping each other cook. It's almost as easy to make a meal for eight people as it is to make a meal for four people. Take turns cooking dinner for each other's families.

Eat leftovers - If your family doesn't mind repetition, cook twice as much food and then serve it again in a day or two. You can make a minor change by adding a new herb or other flavorful ingredient.

Use the freezer - Make twice as much…or four times as much…and freeze the leftovers. If you have a delicious recipe for vegetarian chili, make a huge pot of it and put the rest in containers in the freezer.

What To Love About Cooking

Many people love cooking. Here are some things you may find yourself learning to love about cooking.

Nobody can make it like I can
-- Everyone has different tastes. If you love hazelnuts, you can sprinkle hazelnuts on dishes that nobody else would ever dream of.

You can eat anything you want -- Think back to something delicious you ate years ago. Maybe you thought you would never have a salad nicoise like one you had in the Cayman Island back in the 90s. With a quick search of the internet, you can relive that experience…and have the delicious salad very day if you want it!

It's creative - Once you get a feel for ingredients you can start making your own recipes. It's very rewarding to make a brand new dish that tastes delicious.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

Related Articles

Family Meals Help Children Like healthy Food Part 1

Family Meals Help Children Like Healthy Food Part 2

Why Children Like Processed Food and What You Can Do About It

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  1. It was a treat to find this article. I have recently started to teach myself to cook, after a few starts at various points in my life. I was intimidated! AND I was and am generally cooking for 1, so I didn't see the point. This is so interesting to me because I've always wondered about the psychological baggage of it... my mother died when I was 12 and I raised myself mostly and mostly we ate out. I always hope some good samaritan would come along and teach me some thing in the kitchen, but that was hard to find (I didn have one freinds mother show me some pasta dishes) and I always felt very "left out" I understand a bit better now why I can't really cook well and how much I might have been good at it if I had ever had someone to teach me and help me...
    Anyway, right now it is about making some simple dishes with ingredients as fresh as possible. And I do think learning to cook is something parents should teach and share with their kids....

  2. Thanks for your story Kathy. Good luck on your journey!

  3. My mom never taught me to cook, because her mom died young, and no one taught her to cook. My husband hates the few meals I am good at cooking, so I cook for myself while my husband cooks for himself (food so hot my tongue burns for half an hour). It is hard getting excited over cooking if there is no one to share it with.

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  9. I never liked to cook and did not knew it either but then my friend suggested me to take online cooking classes and told me that it will help me to develop my interest and it really did. I am so happy.

  10. I love Healthy food you Fresh Smoothie is my favorite, is my favorite places every time

  11. I love Healthy food you Fresh Smoothie is my favorite, is my favorite places every time


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