The most essential small change you can make is a four letter word:

COOK.

Yup, you.

If you are an adult (aka, it’s too late for your mom to teach you…or you ignored her attempts), the entry point for cooking is one of two points:

1. Lessons.

a. I wrote about my experience with our private cooking lessons via Patrick Dunn and InterCourse Chef Services recently, and I still personally endorse that route because: it’s in your home, it’s private and Patrick can tailor his lessons to the skills you most want and need to learn.

b. Public classes. When I lived in New York, I was a bit of a Natural Gourmet Institute class junkie (hi, Ramani Nemani!). When I relocated to Calgary, I was keen for some cooking classes, so I volunteered at The Cookbook Co. Cooks as a class assistant. My unlikely-but-true favorite class that year was the all-day grilling course with Ron Shewchuk, Barbecue Master and cookbook author. Guacamole will never be the same without that deliciously addictive smokey infusion. Classes will teach you broad-based skills and food facts, plus provide recipes for you to replicate at home. Definitely check whether the class is hands-on or demonstration-only in advance of registration so you are attending a class that meets your needs.

c. Special interest classes. If you want to hone in on one special skill, there are dozens of food-and-beverage courses through Light Cellar. For example, I loved the mead-making class with Malcolm Saunders, so I can craft my own alcoholic beverages at home. I’m stalking Sidewalk Citizen Bakery’s website for their next sourdough bread making class. Special interest classes are great for diving nerdily deep into a special topic or food that you are particularly interested in. Evidence implies that’s beer and bread for me (ahem).

2. Cookbook/s. I basically learned to cook by reading cookbooks in my bed. I’m terrible at following precise directions, so paging through lists of ingredients and photos provided a knowledge framework so I basically know what-goes-with-what. So here are some ideas on what you can do with a cookbook:

a. read it and never follow a recipe (you don’t have to tell anyone, but that’s what i do).

b. do a cookbook challenge. My sister Diane Sandbrand cooked one recipe a week from Oh She Glows, and I “just happened to be there” most Tuesday nights for a sample. The author has just launched a new book, and I was pretty excited when my sister texted me a photo of the cookbook that she’s checked out of the library. I might have to spring for a copy for her so she can do a second round of recipe challenges this winter.

I’d love to hear other ways you are struggling to cook, or what worked for you to learn! Comment below or send me an email at janis@isaman.ca!

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