Your Inner Zen Chef Isn't Afraid of Failure
You can't improve as a cook (or anything) without making a lot of horrible food (or whatever) first.
Ruth Reichl is the author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life which came out in September 2015. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009. Before that she was the restaurant critic of both The New York Times (1993-1999) and the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993), where she was also named food editor. As co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines.
Ms. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, which have been translated into 18 languages. In 2014 she published her first novel: Delicious!
Ms. Reichl hosted Eating Out Loud, three specials on Food Network, covering New York (2002), San Francisco (2003), and Miami (2003). She is the executive producer of Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie, public television’s 30-episode series, which debuted in October 2006 and Executive Producer and host of Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth, a 10-episode public television (2009). She was also a judge on Top Chef Masters.
Ms. Reichl has been honored with 6 James Beard Awards (one for magazine feature writing and one for multimedia food journalism in 2009; two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998; one for journalism, in 1994; and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 1984). In 2007, she was named Adweek’s Editor of the Year. She received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, presented by the Missouri School of Journalism, in October 2007. Ms. Reichl received the 2008 Matrix Award for Magazines from New York Women in Communications, Inc., in April 2008. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in Upstate New York with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer.
Ruth Reichl: Cooking is a big part of what makes us human. And it is our natural activity. Anybody who’s ever spent much time with a kid knows that all kids love to cook. When you’re cooking at six, seven, eight, everybody thinks it’s adorable and they tell you, no matter how horrible it is, they tell you how great it is. And so it doesn’t occur to you that you could make a mistake and you eventually, you repeat it because everybody’s like, "Isn’t that great?" And you become a good cook through cooking. And you can’t expect too much of yourself the first few times. We in the media — and I take a certain amount of responsibility for this — have frightened people away from cooking. So the first thing I would say is don’t think you have to make perfect meals. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We do so much result-oriented cooking where, you know, we’re so concerned about what we’re going to end up with that we don’t pay attention to the journey. And cooking is an adventure and, you know, if you make a mistake with something that you cook, it’s a meal, you know. There’s another one a few hours later. I mean big deal. Find someone you trust, say, you know, whose recipes do you trust? And make a simple recipe and just find out what a pleasure it is to give that to someone that you care about and watch their eyes light up and their pleasure in something that you’ve cooked for them. It becomes kind of a drug. I mean once you feed people wonderful food and they like it, you want to do it again and again and again.
Cooking is a big part of what makes us human, says legendary food writer Ruth Reichl, author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. And just as we err in all other facets of life, to make mistakes while learning to cook is only natural. In fact, it's through these small bits of failure that we improve in our abilities and heighten our passion for food.
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