Cooking isn’t hard. In fact, anyone can make edible food with no knowledge or experience. But edible food probably isn’t your goal, is it? You want amazing food! Visions of dinner guests oozing over each bite, raving about how the dish is restaurant quality. Or even better, that it reminds them of some bit of long lost nostalgia that has finally been released from subconscious depths. But enough psychobabble. How can you make this food?
You must understand how to use the secret ingredient! It must be used throughout the cooking process, layered in carefully and thoroughly at each step of the process, much like salt. However, being a zero calorie ingredient without sodium, this item cannot be overused, cannot overpower, and has no health risks. Seems too good to be true, right?
It isn’t. The problem is that this ingredient requires careful focus to use. We’re busy! Careful focus is not something we’re good at anymore; it’s a skill set that we’ve lost almost universally across all industries as our lifestyle has become more frantic.
That stops now.
You have to take your time to use this ingredient; you have to slowly master seeing the details, the little details, of the dish you’re making. Don’t worry; you don’t need to be a master chef! Just one little thing at a time, even if it’s a fast dish like a stir fry. Let me walk you through the first 3 steps of a stir fry to show you what I mean, then I promise I’ll actually tell you what the secret ingredient is.
Since it goes so quickly, step one of a stir fry is getting everything cut, sliced, diced, and ready to go. Detail to focus on? Uniform sizes. If they aren’t uniform sizes they won’t cook evenly, which will be either a mushy or a crunchy bummer. Once everything is ready, we’re on to step two:
Heating up the pan with oil. Detail to watch? The pan needs to be hot enough that the oil is smoking, not so hot that the oil has a burnt flavor. If there’s no sizzle when you add your ingredients, you won’t get that nice caramelization and everything will stick. A bummer. The last step?
Removing the food when it’s cooked! Paying attention to when the vegetables are just right to take them out and serve them steaming how and wonderfully crisp yet tender. The secret ingredient to master this process?
Love. Calm down, I’ll explain! I know, I know. It sounds cheesy. It sounds corny. But if you can truly apply this to your cooking, you’ll have amazing dishes every time. More importantly, you’ll outstanding memories of creating the dishes, which is what cooking is all about anyway. Just love everything. Every step of the way, love it like crazy. How?
When you select your ingredients at the store, look for the best. Really think about the farmers that worked to grow those vegetables; give their hard work the respect it deserves. An ear of corn isn’t just a $.25 item, it’s months of work! If you can remember that, you’ll protect your ingredients, and your dish will shine for it. While it cooks?
Spread the love! Watch over the dish, invite the people your with to come stir, flip, chop, whatever. Get them involved! More people, more memories, more inside jokes, more you-had-to-be-there moments… those are what cooking is about. Everyone cooks so confused and thinks it’s about the food.
Don’t get me wrong, the food is important. Just not most important. Taking the time to put this care, this love into your food reflects in the finished dish. Then comes the best part:
Love of all kinds is infectious. Now, control yourself a little. Reel it in. Just show them how to love the food, the cooking, and the rest will come on its own. I know that you’re busy, that you barely have time to cook. But it’s like another other addiction.
At first, you can only carve out time to cook a nice breakfast every Sunday morning. A couple months go by, you rearrange a few things, and make Sunday night a regular family dinner night. Then friends start coming. Then they feel guilty that they always come over, they invite you a different day…
One year later, most of your friends come to your for cooking advice, you see your friends almost nightly, and you have more stories to tell that you have time to tell them. Not a bad place to be. Is that unrealistic? Not at all. The secret to it all? Just a little love.