Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cooking Lessons

Last weekend, I (finally) had my first cooking lesson with my friend Jen - though it was sort of off the cuff. A couple of months ago, Jen asked me to help her learn how to cook. She's been working full-time with a long commute for years, but this week she is finally going part-time...so she'll have more time to cook. Right now, she has a couple of trusty staples she can make well, but she's looking for more.

I decided to start at the beginning with her, and I'm putting together a little guide to help her figure out what she needs in her pantry, what she should look for when she's shopping (what to buy at different stores, the best brands, etc.) and tips to help her figure out what to have for dinner on any given night. Plus recipes, of course.

In my experience, the worst thing about not knowing how to cook is not being able to figure out what to have for dinner every night. I used to dread that decision making process. Once I learned how to think about ingredients and flavors and cooking methods, though, I began to enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. All it took was a little experience. I'm hoping to give Jen shortcuts to get past the struggle.

When she asked me to work with her on her cooking, Jen specifically asked me to teach her how to make my enchiladas. She looooves Mexican food and they'd be a good fit into her repertoire, anyway. Plus, they're, um, not complicated. I don't make my own sauces or anything - all I do is poach some chicken, shred it then saute it with scallions (or red onions) and chopped chiles and El Paso taco seasoning. I fill tortillas with the chicken mixture and shredded "Mexican" cheese, top it all with Ortega enchilada sauce and more cheese, and stick it in the oven. Seriously, so much of the shopping is taken care of in the "international foods" aisle of Giant...it's kind of an embarrassing recipe.

Over the weekend, I felt like making enchiladas, so it seemed like a good idea to invite Jen over to help (and to eat). While this was a spur-of-the-moment lesson and it wasn't nearly as hands-on as future lessons will be (plus, my little cookbook/guide isn't finished yet), I hope Jen got something out of the whole experience. Something besides dinner. She did ask a lot of questions, so that's good!

Our plan is to have two more hands-on lessons, then I'll be releasing Jen into the wilds of the kitchen and grocery store on her own.

Somehow I'm pretty sure she'll make it.

1 comment:

Liz Stambaugh said...

That's awesome! Teaching someone is so different from doing it yourself or just sharing a recipe. Both of us girls in my family just watched my mother cook, and kinda absorbed it growing up. When your dealing with someone that is "kitchen challenged" its totally different. I admire your willingness and patience. I never thought about mentioning what to buy, thats a very good point.

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