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Confidence Building

AJ12754's picture

I was wondering if folks would be willing to share therir experiences as far as how they developed confidence as a cook.


Confidence that the new dishes you try will at least be palatable


Confidence to work with ingredients you haven't work with before (for me that would be most cuts of red meat other than steak and anything to do with puff pastry)


Confidence with menu-planning


Confidence with entertaining


Confidence to ride without training wheels (i.e. a cookbook)


I am not writing a book on the subject or anything but I would like to be a more adventurous cook.

Cave obdurationem cordis

CookiM0nster's picture

(post #31540, reply #1 of 72)

I thnk the biggest thing is not to be afraid of failure. Maybe your experiment works, maybe it doesn't. Either way you learn something in the process, and you can always order out for pizza if necessary.

Marcia's picture

(post #31540, reply #2 of 72)

It all came together for me with experience. The more you cook, the better you'll be at all of the things you mentioned.


When I first started cooking on a regular basis, I'd follow recipes, but then gained the confidence to alter things to my family's taste and then to create my own dishes.


Good luck and have fun with your cooking. The fun is important.

ghcook's picture

(post #31540, reply #3 of 72)

When I trusted my instinct and it worked.  When a recipe looked like it called for too much salt, and I used less and it tasted great, that really built my confidence.  I felt like I no longer merely followed recipes to produce food, but that I understood some of the process.  Then I felt more like a cook and it really boosted my confidence.


These days when recipes don't turn out, it's usually because I didn't follow my instincts.


Katie

Wolvie's picture

(post #31540, reply #22 of 72)

pretty similar here. I was never really good at following recipes, and when my substitutions or deletions worked, I was thrilled. I paid serious attention to the techniques involved, and over time became fairly good at creating dishes and having parties, etc.


Presentation was always my weak point and still is, but - I'm working on that. :-)


If, 2 1/2 years in, you don't control the only road linking your military airport to your headquarters, you don't control much of anything


Lewis Simons

 

Biscuit's picture

(post #31540, reply #4 of 72)

Experiences, practice, lots of study and reading, and not being afraid to try new things.  Also - never ever believing that you know everything there is to know about a certain dish or technique.  There is always something new to learn.  Culinary school gave me skills, not confidence.  Confidence came with success AND failures during the practice of cooking and baking.

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

DeannaS's picture

(post #31540, reply #5 of 72)

I think for me it was the idea that _it's just food_. I mean, it's not heart surgery. If you completely screw up, so it goes. Make a bagel or order a pizza.

I know a lot of people, for example, look at baking as this spooky science and are afraid to alter anything for fear of failure. Okay, how many people count licking a delicious batter-covered spoon failure, even if your cake was as flat as a pancake. ;) The process is fun, or at least it can be if you want it to be.

I still suck at menu-planning, though. But, I just go with it. Last night I made a squash galette and roasted broccoli. Then, at the last minute I thought, "dang - this menu is lacking! I need a dessert!" So, I sauteed some apples with some butter, maple syrup, pecans and cinnamon, and served it topped with a dollop of unsweetened yogurt. It might not have been what I'd planned had I really thought about the menu ahead of time. But, it filled our tummies and was actually quite good and in keeping with the fall theme I had going. :)

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

AJ12754's picture

(post #31540, reply #17 of 72)

Last night's dinner sounds fabulous!  I am going to try that squash galette (I think you posted it in another thread) because I really love winter squash.

Cave obdurationem cordis

DeannaS's picture

(post #31540, reply #23 of 72)

I did post it in another thread, and please do try it. It will be good practice for your bread-baking skills, as the "crust" is really just a bread dough.

Here's an idea to try - when you're kneading the dough, knead in a bit of chopped sage. I didn't do it, but I think it could use it.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

AJ12754's picture

(post #31540, reply #29 of 72)

I am going to print it off now and try it this week-end -- I'll let you know how I do -- it will be my first galette.  Thanks!

Cave obdurationem cordis

jocelyng's picture

(post #31540, reply #6 of 72)

No one would call my dad flexible in his views.  One day I was stressing about how something was turning out, he said "no one knows what it's supposed to taste like."  I almost fell over hearing something so liberating from him,  but it turns out he picked up that pearl of wisdom from cookbook author Hugh Carpenter during a class!  If you keep that in mind, you may find that you can relax and enjoy the process.


Jocelyn

Glenys's picture

(post #31540, reply #7 of 72)

That's choice considering a disasterous class I did with Hugh Carpenter that I had to "save" every dish made. People do know when lamb shanks are floating in liquid rather than in a rich, dense broth or when risotto looks like gruel.

AJ12754's picture

(post #31540, reply #8 of 72)

Gosh -- thanks to everybody who responded -- liberating really is the operative word here.  Everything you guys suggested actually made me feel like going into my kitchen and start playing.

Cave obdurationem cordis

Cissy's picture

(post #31540, reply #14 of 72)

made me feel like going into my kitchen and start playing.


That's exactly how I describe it -- I love to "play in the kitchen."  I read cookbooks like some folks read novels, to get ideas and find interesting new flavor combos.


Can't tell you how many dinner parties we've had that included new (untried) recipes.


AFAIK, cakes and other baked goods are the only items that require you to stick to the recipe.

jocelyng's picture

(post #31540, reply #9 of 72)

That sounds pretty nauseating.  Anyway, maybe one can consider the idea and not the source?


Jocelyn

Wolvie's picture

(post #31540, reply #21 of 72)

oh the book you could write, eh? ;-)


 


If, 2 1/2 years in, you don't control the only road linking your military airport to your headquarters, you don't control much of anything


Lewis Simons

 

soccermom's picture

(post #31540, reply #10 of 72)

I like all the suggestions you've received and I'd add that informed feedback will also help. If you know someone who's a good cook, ask, watch, and help to learn how he/she does everything. Then ask for feedback on your dishes.

 


 

 

 

MadMom's picture

(post #31540, reply #11 of 72)

I think a love of food is a key.  I know I'm far from being the sort of cook I would like to be, but I love food, and I love to cook.  I enjoy experimenting with new ideas and new ingredients, and poor Willie Ray is a willing taster (unless he deems the dish is "too spicy.")  I still keep recipes around as general guidelines, but cannot remember the last time I was able to follow one to the letter...there's always something I forgot to pick up at the store, or something I misinterpret, or something I choose to substitute. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

AJ12754's picture

(post #31540, reply #12 of 72)

My husband is a willing taster although I am not sure that my efforts will ever equal the In n' Out burger in his estimation -- but he does give me good (meaning honest) feedback.  And he LOVES to eat.  We are also fortunate to have friends that we do a monthly dinner party with where we try things out on each other ... and the guys bring different wines to try with the appetizer, main course and dessert.


I guess I am becoming a bit more daring -- last night I made the squash soup in this month's issue even though I didn't have a tart apple, only a golden delicious.  Time was when I would probably (I am embarassed to admit it) popped in the car to get the exact kind of apple the recipe called for.


Thanks everybody  :-)

Cave obdurationem cordis

DeannaS's picture

(post #31540, reply #13 of 72)

Well, good for you for being adventurous! You know, that's often how new recipes are developed. If you like the general idea of recipe, but perhaps don't care for a certain ingredient (or don't have it), but you can "taste" in your head what something else might taste like - go for the substitution. It won't be the same as the original recipe, but you just might like it even more.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

Mimi's picture

(post #31540, reply #32 of 72)

I agree that a love of food is the key to learning how to cook.  Curiousity about ingredients will take you up another level and understanding your ingredients will help even more.  Being without fear is liberating!


It is not something I think about though.  I have been cooking for over 30 years and have loved it from the start.  Probably because my mother was an awful cook and we were always hungry!


mimi


 


"Every child can learn, just not all on the same day in the same way."
"All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
AJ12754's picture

(post #31540, reply #33 of 72)

I can't really figure out where my interest in cooking comes from  -- I do remember just loving to watch The french Chef as a kid -- I think I am really drawn to that feeling of passion for something.  That's probably what led me to try cooking on my own and I found it really rewarding -- the process was rewarding even when the outcome (like that lime mousse thing) was nauseating.


Still - I am not sure that I love food so much as I love sharing food, a really great meal, with others. And making the meal feels like a part of the sharing -- a restaurant meal doesn't feel the same.

Cave obdurationem cordis

MadMom's picture

(post #31540, reply #34 of 72)

ITA.  As lovely as the restaurant meals have been during the various fests, one of my favorite meals was during midwest fest, when everyone brought something to pamilyn's home, we cooked pizza together and stuffed ourselves.  The company was great, the experience was exhilarating.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

pamilyn's picture

(post #31540, reply #35 of 72)

That was fun wasn't it? And to think, someone on this board told me it would be a disaster having that many cooks in the kitchen. I knew it would be fun. I just wish I had been better organized, but my life was really hectic that weekend, AND my cat died the day before...Le sigh...    :(    Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

MadMom's picture

(post #31540, reply #36 of 72)

I cannot imagine complaining about the organization...and I think you were amazing to carry on when your kitty had just died.  I still cry over a stray kitten I only had for less than a year who passed on. 


BTW, your house was so beautiful, and your husband was wonderful to put up with all of us!




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!
pamilyn's picture

(post #31540, reply #38 of 72)

I was a caterer. I like to be organized :)  Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Jean's picture

(post #31540, reply #37 of 72)

To say nothing of the questionable characters you had lurking down in your basement level.  Your stress hormones must have been in overdrive. But you handled it all with grace and aplomb.
And W. is a love. Glad we said farewell on Saturday evening.  I knew you'd need the Sunday sleep-in.


Veni, vidi, velcro        I came,  I  saw,  I stuck around.


http://www.thebreastcancersite.com

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
pamilyn's picture

(post #31540, reply #39 of 72)

I hope I didn't wake you up with my crying Saturday night. I lost it when I was finally able to be alone. It felt good!! Pamilyn... BTW, I just mailed you a picture of the window, and some silly pictures of our trip. I thought Rod would get a kick out of the stuffed deer drinking beer!!!  Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

Jean's picture

(post #31540, reply #40 of 72)

Thanks! Something to look forward to next week! BTW, glad you had a good cry, and not you didn't bother us, we didn't hear you.

Veni, vidi, velcro        I came,  I  saw,  I stuck around.


http://www.thebreastcancersite.com

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
NanaC's picture

(post #31540, reply #41 of 72)

Pamilyn, tears are healing.  Don't be ashamed of crying for a loved friend, even if it was a furry one.  And I agree that it was very brave of you to still allow us to use your home at such a stressful time.  That evening truly made the weekend special!

Fran


"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance!"

Fran

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we might as well dance!"

pamilyn's picture

(post #31540, reply #42 of 72)

Thanks Fran, It was a very good thing. We had a ball. It was a really good way to meet everyone. I would do it all over again. Hearing about your kitchen...maybe I should make my new livingroom the kitchen and the kitchen the living room!! I certainly spend more time in the kitchen than I ever would in the living room...hmmmm. Sounds like an expensive plumbing bill.  :)  Now you have me thinking.....Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls