Sometimes my mojo goes missing. My kitchen mojo, that is. Generally, I love cooking – I enjoy the nightly challenge of combining and transforming raw ingredients. But when my mojo goes missing, that daily chore seems like so much effort. It usually comes back though. After a week or two, I rediscover some combination, ingredient, technique or other yumminess and all is right with the world.
I think the reason it never deserts me completely it that I find the alternative to not cooking every night truly horrifying. Take away every night? Been there in my twenties – really not good for me! Eating out? Too expensive and not kid-friendly. Frozen meals? I can’t bring myself to pay for something that I can make better, cheaper and healthier. Toast every night? Blargh!
Truly learning to cook isn’t about being a chef. I don’t even think it is about impressing people. It is about having confidence in the kitchen. Confidence to freestyle. To deviate from a recipe if you don’t have all the ingredients. Confidence to approach new ingredients. Confidence to look at raw ingredients in the store and know that you turn them into something you want to eat. Or – and this is critical to avoid food waste – look at the three random items left in the fridge and know that you can turn them into something great.
It gives me the control
Cooking for yourself gives you control over what’s in your food. Chefs do wonderful things, but have you seen how much butter and salt is used on an episode of Masterchef? They cook purely for flavour. When you cook for yourself, you have other priorities (like your own health or dietary needs). You also see every ingredient as it goes in so there is no opportunity for sneaky substitutions with ingredients designed to fool your mouth rather than nourish your body. It also gives you back control over the environmental impact of what you are eating. You make the decisions about how the food is sourced.
It’s so much cheaper
Buying ingredients from scratch and processing them yourself is just cheaper. For about the same price as the takeaway version, I can make a homemade Green Chicken Curry that serves 8. If I wanted to, I could freeze it in individual portions with rice, effectively making my own frozen meals.
You get less of the bad stuff
Whether you want to avoid salt – like all the nutritionists say; sugar – it’s the latest thing; saturated fats; processed seed oils or gluten you can do it more easily if you are buying the raw ingredients rather than trusting others to tell you what is in your meals. Also, preservatives and colours don’t usually make it onto a shopping list, but find their way into your diet easily if you aren’t cooking the majority of your meals from whole ingredients.
And more of the good stuff
When you are in control, it’s your choice what goes into each meal. From ingredients and flavourings right down to individual nutrients. You can include the things that nourish your body and take care of you. This is one of the best reasons to learn to cook. Cooking can also be a really creative process. If you don’t over complicate it, it’s almost it’s own form of alchemy.