When I was a kid, I was never hanging out in the kitchen shadowing my mother or grandmother when they cooked. I was the kid that would rather run outside, play, and scratch up my knees. I figured cooking was a grown-up thing and that knowing how to cook came with age and maturity. In a sense that was kind of true. It wasn't until I moved to New York that that basic instinct struck me. Fast forward to 22 year old me living in New York without a real income. Survival mode kicked in instantly because if I don't have any money, I obviously cannot eat out every single day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I remember going to a grocery store, Key Foods to be exact, and I saw that a small serving of salmon ranged from $4-$7. At that price it would last me for dinner and lunch the next day. So I bought a couple packages, some broccoli, asparagus, and rice. 3 simple sides. Now, I never cooked salmon before, but I did always notice that when my grandmother made it, she made it look very, very easy so I took my chances. I went to google and just looked up how long it had to cook for and I felt comfortable enough to handle the rest.
So I went back to my NYU apartment-dorm with my bags of groceries and realized I didn't have a single pot or pan. At the time I was living in Chinatown, Manhattan and I knew for a fact that I could find dishes for fairly cheap in my neighborhood. Instead of purchasing a ton of fancy pots and pans, I bought a wok for $5. A wok is probably the most universal piece of cookware you could own in your early stages of cooking. It boils water (rice), it sautes veggies (broccoli and asparagus), and it gets hot enough inside to cook through meats and seafood (salmon).
I started with my rice first by boiling water. Once that was complete, I heated a little oil in the cleaned wok for the broccoli and then tossed that around until it softened. Since the wok is not fit to cook a whole piece of salmon, well maybe it is for more seasoned professionals but that was not a risk I was willing to play around with, I cut the salmon into small chunks and then tossed it in the wok with a little oil and garlic. All I knew from eating salmon at home was that the fish was fully cooked when it "flaked" after poking it with a fork. Depending on how big the piece and how hot the fire, that could be anywhere between 8-10 minutes in the wok. Then voila! You just made a pretty darn good meal.
Simple right? So why do you overthink cooking? What's holding you back? Knowing how to cook doesn't mean you can bake a chicken or roast a Thanksgiving turkey. I haven't done either of those things yet, but I know I can cook. The summer I moved to New York without a dime was the best and one of the hardest times I've experienced living in New York. It's a common misconception that salmon is really expensive and that if you're indulging in that fish then you must have money, but during one of my poorest moments I was making salmon faithfully.
There are so many misconceptions about cooking, the same way there are misconceptions about living in New York without a particular salary. I learned to cook with an unpaid internship, a part time job paying $10 an hour, and sometimes a quick google search. As time went on and I became more and more interested in attempting to replicate meals I've eaten at restaurants. I've failed so, so, so many times. I've had to throw away food that was completely inedible and I've had to just swallow it sometimes too. I've cried and thought cooking just wasn't for me and I've cried because I finally nailed a pad thai recipe. Cooking has transformed from a survival tactic, to a hobby, to a serious passion of mine.
Are you self-conscious about cooking or scared to really give it a try? Let me know in the comments or send me a private message.
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