Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just Get in the Kitchen Already by Guest Blogger Jane Bills from Let There Be Bite

Thank you to Jane Bills for today and tomorrow’s blogs. She runs the food website Let There Be Bite, a guide to the best ingredients in stores and online. You can find amazing information from product reviews to in store guides. It is like shopping with an expert, personal shopper.

Just Get In The Kitchen Already

Drop that “100-Calorie” snack pack. Now read the ingredients on the label. Would your grandmother recognize any of them? (Not to mention that some of those engineered products actually make you gain weight.)

I have a good friend who is always eating junk like this to keep herself thin. And when I point out that she can’t tell me what any of the 12-syllable ingredients are, she simply shrugs her shoulders. Have we become that apathetic to the food industry and what it’s churning out for us? Are we so bogged down with day-to-day life that we can’t cook a simple a meal with ingredients that grow out of the ground and not out of a laboratory? Don’t get me wrong. I love junk food as much as the next girl (I have to keep potato chips out of the house or they’d be gone, well, already.) But we’ve become a culture where no one teaches their children to cook anymore. Everything is pre-made, ready-to-eat, on the go. If you have time to watch “Access Hollywood,” you have time to cook your own dinner.

I find most people are reticent to cook because they feel they don’t have the skills in the kitchen. I get it. When I lived in Italy, I took a basics cooking class and the instructor laughed when she saw me slicing parsley like an arthritic. But once you learn basic knife skills, the world of slicing and dicing (and cooking) really does open up and become much more approachable. If you don’t have time for a class, maybe you have a friend who can show you how to wield a knife. If you read a recipe and it says to “braise” something, and you have no clue what that means, Google it! This is why the Internet is so great. Most of the time, recipes are relatively easy. If you read one that goes over a page when printed, find something else. (Some chefs like to talk a lot, and break one step into seven parts. I compare it to the friend who tells you a story with every last detail included – the sun is going down and you were meeting for lunch.)

Another great way to get excited about cooking? Buy yourself some decent pots and pans. You don’t have to spring for the whole set; just a few basics, like a nonstick sauté pan (essential for eggs), a heavy-bottomed medium-size sauce pan (crucial for keeping simmering items from burning on the bottom when you get sucked into Facebook), and a large pot for boiling pasta, or cooking spinach (I love how what looks like a bushel gets reduced to a half-cup), or a big pot of soup that last for days. Now you’re thinking: yah right, pots and pans will get me excited about cooking (eye roll). Trust me. My mother hates to cook. She would honestly survive on popcorn and scotch if she were left to her own devices. But I bought her a couple pots and pans and she actually pulled out a dusty recipe and went at it because she found them so much easier to work with. Believe me, if she can do it, you can do it!

Don’t miss Jane’s guest post tomorrow: Farmer’s Market or Big Box Store, Find the Best Ingredients.

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