How do you teach someone to cook?

Tanya Steel: I guess the first step in teaching somebody how to cook is really getting them to talk about what foods they love.  And a lot of people, no matter what age – from five years old to 50 – can be very nervous about different cuisines, and different ingredients, and things they don’t know.  I will say that in the 20 years that I’ve been in the food publishing industry, the American palate has really grown much more sophisticated, and they’re much more willing to try things they’ve never heard of like …, or lemongrass.  And I know that at Epicurious, one of the things that people like to do is find something at a farmer’s market like beet greens and type in “beet greens”, and up pops up hundreds and hundreds of recipes that they can then use to cook those beet greens.  And that’s kind of an evolution in the American palate today.  And it’s such a fantastic thing that’s . . . that’s happening in this country.  So I think that the number one thing to . . . when you teach somebody to cook is to start with what they love, and then to go on from there and to show them the real kind of basics – how to braise, how to roast – and not make it complicated at all.  Because it really doesn’t have to be complicated.  On the other hand I’m not a huge proponent of this kind of speed cooking where you’re taking lots of mixes and dumping things in bowls and kind of calling it home cooked meals, because that’s not the case.  There’s no reason why, you know, you can’t show someone how to just cook an egg properly.  It’s very easy to do.  And I do think that we have lost that in this country, and it’s coming back now with things like the Food Network, and with Epicurious, and the younger generation really embracing all the different new foods and flavors that they can try – not just in this country but as they travel abroad.

Recorded on: 1/17/08

There's no reason you can't teach someone to cook an egg properly, says Steel.

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