start with what you know
Do you know how to make a sandwich? Pasta? Pizza? Salad? When I started, I knew a few of these, including pouring a bowl of cereal and baking from a box mix. I had to call my parents and ask them how to cook corn on the cob and how to long to cook pasta for. (To be fair, this was before the internet was on phones.) In college one of the first "meals" I made for myself was mashed potatoes with taco shells. It was, let’s say, pretty sad.
But if you start where you are, you can only improve from there. When I started to go vegan (and learn to cook), I started simple: tacos, pasta, and salad. These provided me with the foundation for many techniques, like cutting vegetables, cooking times & time management, combining spices, and how to know when too much salt is really too much (or too little.)
The same idea applied to ingredients - I didn’t go too far out of my comfort zone for the first couple of months. I knew I liked carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and black beans, so that’s what I cooked. Once I got bored of them, I went further.
perfect one dish at a time
Starting with what I knew, I set out to make “the best” version of those dishes I could. I focused on just one or two meals at a time, so that after a few weeks I knew I could make them without thinking. This gave me a go-to meal on busy weeknights, when people came over, and when I felt kind of down on myself when experimenting in new dishes or ingredients. And when you focus on one thing, you can really learn the techniques faster and get more experimental. When I “mastered” the basic taco, I could try new ingredients inside, or start trying to make sauces to go on top without completely messing up my dinner.
try others' recipes
After starting with the basics, I wanted to learn more every day - but I didn’t have the skills to think up new dishes and I was too scared to try new combinations. (My biggest stumbling block was not knowing what spices went with what.) So I bought a couple of books - Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau - and tried a ton of their recipes. (These are also almost definitely at your local library now.) They taught me new techniques, showed me how to best use unfamiliar ingredients, and most importantly, gave me the confidence to keep cooking every day.
Whenever you have a question about something, Google it. It sounds super simple, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never know. If you’ve never cut an onion, what better way to learn than a video tutorial; if you want to know what to do with kohlrabi, what better way than a quick Pinterest search? I keep the How To Cook Everything app on my phone to this day, because there’s always something new to learn, whether it’s about a specific ingredient, technique, or just how to store your food.
explore & experiment
Once you know how to cut an onion, you’ll really want to try something new. (I know I did!) Add in a new ingredient each week, or try new styles of cooking. The first time we ever made a recipe from an Indian blog we instantly fell in love with rich curries and cool sauces, and it really expanded our cooking skills. This constant trying of new things kept us interested in cooking, and taught us a lot as well.
get your tools & pantry together
Make sure you have a kitchen stocked with the basics, that way you’ll always be ready to cook. We have a few articles that’ll really help you get exactly what you need, because they’re what we find most essential for ourselves:
- Our favorite kitchen tools
- Our kitchen pantry essentials
- How we keep our kitchen organized
- How we go grocery shopping
So are you just learning how to cook? Are we missing any tips? Let us know in the comments! :)