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I’m grateful to my mother for so many things. She taught me how to do laundry and showed me how to coupon. Most importantly, she let me experiment in the kitchen. My mother regularly cooked for our family while I was growing up. She was a master of quick dinners and improvised casseroles. Her uncanny ability to combine raw ingredients to create a flavorful meal is one I’m glad I’ve inherited. When I think about what I learned in my mother’s kitchen, I realize she taught me more than how to follow a recipe. She taught me how to find joy.

Text by Annika Bastian

Learning Means Making Mistakes

During summer breaks in high school, I developed a love for food-themed television. Soon, I couldn’t stop flipping through food magazines and fancy cookbooks. I started cooking with several disastrous attempts at desserts. Early adventures included cookies that were hard little rocks, pecan pie with salt instead of sugar, and pudding congealed so thickly it was nearly inedible.

Girl holds tray of burned cookies.

Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect

Thankfully, even after these less-than-successful attempts, my mother still let me back in the kitchen. She gave me pointers on where I went wrong and tips on how to improve. After mastering the art of boiling pasta and making béchamel sauce, I felt invincible. Thanks to her guiding hand, I now feel comfortable handling fresh vegetables and raw meat. And I even know how to make cookies that actually look like cookies, not rocks.

Mother teaches daughters to cook.

How to Help Newcomers Learn and Love to Cook

If you’re an experienced home cook, I hope you’ll pass on your love of cooking. I encourage you to give new cooks the same freedom my mother gave me. Let newcomers experience the basic cooking techniques offered in many simple dishes. You can even buy a pre-prepared main dish and teach them how to make simple sides. New cooks can sharpen their skills by making roasted broccoli, glazed carrots, or mashed potatoes. If they manage nothing but making a mess of the kitchen, offer up encouragement and a dish rag. They’ll figure it out soon, and, with your help, they’ll learn that cooking really can be a joy.

When it comes to cooking, everyone starts out not knowing what they’re doing, but somehow we figure it out along the way. With lots of tasty ups and bitter downs, every dish shows a beginner how to better their techniques.

Text By Annika Bastian