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    Thread: How did you learn how to cook for yourself?

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      How did you learn how to cook for yourself?

      Like the title says, how did you learn how to cook for yourself? Did you start it due necessity or personal interest? How did you learn how to shop for ingredients? Did you spend many days eating the same dishes or did you quickly learned to vary?

      This topic will be a massive help for slackers like me who love to cook but never bothered learning how to shop or to make anything else than the regular basic dishes Literally, how should I know what to buy when I go to supermarket unless I know exactly what the 14 meals (1 week) I'm gonna do? I don't even have any notion of how much potatoes I'd need to buy to make soup
      Quote Originally Posted by nito89 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by zoth00 View Post
      You have to face lucid dreams as cooking:
      Stick it in the microwave and hope for the best?
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      Good topic. As for how I learned - my mom had a massive collection of cookbooks and this little notebook thing called a recipe finder - it's an index where she wrote her favorite recipes along with what book and what page to find them on. She had also written little notes next to some of the recipes for things to add or leave out to make them better - so basically I learned how to cook all the best dishes my mom used to make - and I needed to ask her some questions in the beginning - you know, what does it mean to simmer, broil or braise etc. Actually though a good cookbook will tell you all those things - some cookbooks anyway are set up to teach you all you need to know, where as some are just collections of recipes.

      Now when I want to learn anything new I go to AllRecipes.com. Amazing site - it's basically a social site for recipes - people post their own recipes and then there are comments underneath by people suggesting ways to adjust them or whatever, plus you can adjust for different number of servings. I mean, say the recipe makes 10 servings of something - if you only want to make half as much you can change the number and it will show you how much of each ingredient you need to buy.

      It took me a while to learn where to find everything i the store - had to ask a lot of employees at first, but now I know my way around. A little tip I discovered - and as I understand it all grocery stores are set up like this (haven't checked many but so far it holds true) - the healthy/basic foods are all around the outside walls of the store - on the freestanding shelves out in the middle is where you mostly just find the junk food. Now I mostly just buy from around the outer perimeter - that's where they have the meats, breads, milk, eggs etc - I only need a few things from the freestanding shelves like cereal or peanuts.

      Every once in a while I'll make a single-serving meal like a steak and potato or something, but usually I like to make something that will last for a week or week and a half or so and then just microwave it each day.

      In the beginning I only thought of one recipe at a time - like I'd decide I'm going to make spaghetti with garlic toast and salad, and I'd make up my list and buy the stuff - but I quickly learned you really need to plan all your meals for the next week or so and get everything all at once - breakfasts lunches and dinners.

      Oh and at first things will be tricky if you don't have a well stocked spice rack and basic foodstuffs like sugar, flour etc - you need to buy it up a little at a time as you need it and also occasionally just pick up extra stuff to stock your cabinets like canned veggies and soups for those days when you run out and don't want to go buy more right away. I keep an emergency stash of Maruchan Instant Lunches for those days - it's a styrofoam cup with freeze-dried noodles and veggies in it - just boil some water and pour it in and wait 15 minutes for the noodles to swell up nice and plump and soft (the instructions say 3 minutes is enough, but the noodles are small and hard if you do it then - trust me, wait 15 minutes).

      Any time you run into a term you don't really understand in a recipe google it. There are countless articles/blogs etc all over the web where people write every detail you will ever need to know.

      I now keep a folder on my computer where I saved PDF files of all the recipes from AllRecipe.com and a few other similar sites - I can transfer the PDFs to my Kindle and take them into the kitchen when I'm ready to cook something. I just got ink for my printer though because I really want to print them up and keep them in a binder in those plastic sleeves. Then I can get rid of all the crappy handwritten little post-it notes I copied from the recipe sites that are getting all stained and creased.

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      i learned by watching my mom cook then little by little i started being creative and developed my own way of cooking.

      i just buy whatever i need for the week and cook whatever i'm in the mood for that day. i don't like to reheat things so i just take out whatever i need for that day and cook.
      just make sure you check the date on everything you buy, especially for meat, poultry, and fish. good luck.
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      I went to university and started feeling kinda hungry after a couple of days.
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      Quote Originally Posted by tropicalbreeze View Post
      i just buy whatever i need for the week and cook whatever i'm in the mood for that day. i don't like to reheat things so i just take out whatever i need for that day and cook.
      Yeah, stuff sure does taste better right after you cook it rather than refrigerated and reheated lol! I just don't want to have to cook and wash all those pots and pans every damn day. It'd probably taste better if I reheat in the toaster over or on the stove rather than microwaving - it's just so much easier lol.

      You gotta be careful changing the portions though - a lot of recipes don't work right if you use less ingredients. You can't always just reduce everything by the same amount - for example, and keep in mind I don't know exactly how it works, this is just an off the cuff example to get the point across, but if you use say half of the other ingredients you might still need to use the same amount of flour or 3/4 as much or something, because of the way it functions. I don't know the sepcifics, I just know it's a general principle. I suppose there's a rule of thumb you could google for it, I just haven't done that yet.

      Interesting all the posts so far are by dudes..

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      Xei
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      Whoo, going home for the Easter holidays tonight. I can forget everything I know about feeding myself.
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      I supposed it was necessity because as good as my parents were to us kids, they worked most of the day and came home and passed out before they could make dinner most of the time. So we kids just had to learn to cook if we didn't want to go to bed hungry. We started out with eggs, french toast, and omlets and moved up from there.
      My Lucid Dreaming Motto - "I have walked upon the the surface of a burning star. Observed events so infinitesimal and instantaneous that they can barely be described as having occurred at all. You... you're just a dream character. And this world's most powerful dream character poses no more threat to me than it's smartest cupcake." - Dr. Manhattan (kinda)

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      Left home, campus food was ok, but I found it was cheaper to make my own food. The dorms did not allow open heating elements, but we snuck in a rice cooker and made a variety of foods out of it, including rice, scrambled eggs, and simmer-soups. They also had a kitchen, but only one to share between hundreds of students. I would use the kitchen to make more complicated foods when I could, in big batches so they'd feed me all week.

      I went vegetarian because meat's expensive (and for environmental and health benefits), and learned how to cook veggie burgers, vegan ice cream, and a bunch of other things...

      And then I no longer lived at the dorms, and started cooking my own food indefinitely. I have more money now, too. : D
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      I just don't want to have to cook and wash all those pots and pans every damn day.
      i can relate somewhat. i hate washing dishes but i enjoy cooking. i usually make a big mess after i'm done cooking. lol
      You gotta be careful changing the portions though - a lot of recipes don't work right if you use less ingredients.
      i guess that depends on what your cooking. a lot of what i cook doesn't require a lot of ingredients added and can be made for one person for one day. but there were also times where i had to make the whole portion and reheat everything in a pot or oven the next day. so it really depends on what you make.

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      I learned the basics of how to follow a recipe. If you can do that you can pretty much make anything. Some might see it as a handicap but I don't cook that often but I can still cook almost anything if I just google it and read the instructions.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      I learned the basics of how to follow a recipe. If you can do that you can pretty much make anything. Some might see it as a handicap but I don't cook that often but I can still cook almost anything if I just google it and read the instructions.
      That's pretty much what I've done so far. The deal is I can't work in basis of recipes if I want to stock up materials to make dishes for a week. Or wait, why couldn't why? Once again, seems that it comes down pretty much to planning your meals ahead. Makes me wonder how can people do those "monthly shopping trips" to the supermarket
      Quote Originally Posted by nito89 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by zoth00 View Post
      You have to face lucid dreams as cooking:
      Stick it in the microwave and hope for the best?
      MMR (Mental Map Recall)- A whole new way of Recalling and Journaling your dreams
      Trying out MILD? This is how you become skilled at it.

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      I don't know about monthly - meat and milk and a few other things won't last that long - well maybe you could freeze the meat. That's one thing I like to do - for instance if I'm shopping and I see some nice country style ribs I'll buy them and put them in the freezer - they'll keep for like 4 months that way and be just fine defrosted. My microwave has a meat defrost cycle where you just punch in how many pounds of meat you're putting in and it beeps to tell you when to flip it over and when it's defrosted. But aside from that I usually need to shop every week and a half or two weeks, and maybe spend a couple of days living on fast food in between if I don't feel like making a shopping trip yet. That's the only time I'll drink soda, is when I get a combo meal somewhere.

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      As a kid I used to help my neighbor prepare meals. He lived alone but sort-of became my second father. He worked for a state agency and would often hold dinners for state officials.

      That only gave me the interest in food. I didn't actually learn to cook until I was in my 20's. For my 21st birthday my mother asked me if I wanted anything and I told her I wanted The Joy of Cooking.

      It was still a few years later that I really delved deeply into it but I knew I wanted to eat better foods. I didn't even know how to make scrambled eggs, I had to learn from the book.

      Fortunately that book and others since were very good at explaining not only the recipes and parts but the techniques. That's the important bit...knowing how things are supposed to turn out and what makes them turn out that way. I found that following a recipe is easy but learning the techniques requires the most attention.

      In pursuit of all my skills I subscribed to the now dead magazine Gourmet. It is filled with tons of great recipes, most of which can also be found on Epicurious.com

      Additionally I started thinking about the foods I like in restaurants and what it would take to cook them. That gave me additional inspiration for a lot of my yummier meals.

      I do a big shopping trip at the beginning of the month for a lot of staples, things like sugar and spices, paper towels and such. Fruits and milk, veggies and bread need to be shopped for occasionally and particularly according to menu. This is why it's good to plan meals and always have a few simple backup meals in case you don't feel like cooking. Spaghetti, eggs, frozen chicken are all good to keep for lazy times when needed.

      I'm happiest when preparing big meals, but I had to work up to cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people. Learning to prepare meals for two or three and following directions will help you get the basics down, the principles to prepare any big meal.

      As you get older and want to cook more for yourself or a group (or someone special) you'll want a well-stocked pantry or cabinet. Flour, sugar and a variety of herbs should always be on hand. The items you buy should depend on what you like to cook or eat. I cook often so my cabinet has all the spices I need to season just about anything I would ever make.

      Some basics to usually have on hand:
      Light-tasting Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
      Peppercorns
      Sea Salt
      Rosemary, Parsley & Thyme
      Paprika
      Cooking fat/grease
      Butter (salted for yum and unsalted for baking/cooking)
      Eggs
      Milk
      Cheese
      Bread
      Salad Greens (preference)

      Everything beyond that is generally up to personal taste in what you like to cook or eat.


      There are some decent food threads on this forum but one of the best ways to make the meals you enjoy is to look them up on the internet and then read the reviews, especially recipes with lots of positive reviews. Often the people who make these dishes will provide wonderful cooking tips and alterations to recipes that make a meal a masterpiece.

      Try coming up with a list of some of the foods you'd like to eat/cook and learn about them.

      People here seem glad to help.
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      I remember I was about 13 years old watching my mother cook dinner. It hit me then that one day I would have to cook for my own family, and I didn't have a clue how to do it. Mom tried to teach me but it was like a foreign language to me and I rejected it.

      A few years later I remember being hungry for a late night snack and there was nothing to munch on. SO I opened the fridge and there I remember seeing mushrooms and ranch dressing. "Fried mushrooms and ranch are good at Trail Dust Restaurant," I thought, so I nuked the mushrooms in the microwave with a coating of ranch. Hallelujah it was good! And from scratch kinda instead of a box!

      Then I wanted to learn more. PBS was playing Great Chefs of the West and Great Chefs of the World, which depicted executive chefs cooking inside their own restaurant kitchens (with a box of Uncle Ben's Rice conveniently sitting on a shelf in the background, but that's another asdfasdf). So I basically learned by watching the pros in their own environment.

      Then came the cookbook addiction. One good thing came from this myriad collection of cookbooks and magazines, but it wasn't the recipes or techniques. No, it was the pictures. Food porn is a great inspiration for cooking a meal. Should it look colorful? Shiny? Steamy, dry, wet, crispy, brown? Should it take up a lot of the plate, or just a small circle in the center? Garnish or no? We eat with our eyes as well as with our mouths and noses.

      After that I learned how to keep perishable ingredients on a regular rotation, as well as a cast of pantry items upon which I usually rely. From basic aromotic vegetables & spices, all the way to fancy oils & vinegars. At any given time, I better have some dried porcini mushrooms, truffle oil, caviar, good cheese, bacon (YES BACON), good wine, and some rustic, crusty bread. What can't you do with those?

      Now you can't keep me out of the kitchen; it's my office, my refuge, my home. I can't believe I was once afraid of cooking! Get out, I'm making risotto and the rule is no more than 2 people in the kitchen at a time.

      edit: oh derp, forgot to mention I went to culinary school. But it's worth mentioning that self motivation, great cooking shows, and on-the-spot-training are worth more to me than that little piece of paper.
      Last edited by OpheliaBlue; 03-18-2013 at 06:53 AM.
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      Lol ^ queen of the kitchen AND queen of DV now that Nina seems to be in retirement!

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      I learned because me and my sister were very comforted by that old cooking show called "Two fat ladies". They were great, and then we would try to make the stuff they make, if we gave up we'd just make code red mountain dew with whip cream mixed in..which is yummy
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      I moved out, and there I was with a fully stocked kitchen. After many missteps and months of being happy when something turned out edible, I was bound to improve.

      At first I set out to learn a few basic (and cheap) dinners, just so I could keep myself fed on something that was actually good. Some of these I learned from cooking the same recipe over and over, but most I learned when I was on vacation at home. When I'm on vacation at my parents house, I'll ask my mom if we can have a particular dish for dinner one of the days, and help her prepare it. While making it she'll tell me all about the tips and tricks that goes into making it, and I'll promptly forget. Then when I'm back at my apartment, I'll look up a recipe for that dish, and some of the tricks will come back to me.

      However, the most important lesson I learned is that spices makes the difference between bleh and nom, and there is no substitute for tasting. When you've made a dish a hundred times, maybe you'll know it by heart, but for most things I make I'll add the spices bit by bit while tasting in between. That's the only thing that reliably gives a good result.
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      I can't believe I didn't mention the food porn. All those pictures and TV shows....mouth-watering!

      The really wonderful thing about the best meals is they are often as cheap or cheaper to prepare than the fatty fried meals that are such a staple of this generation.

      For example, I'm going to be making a pork-shoulder roast in about ten days...big hunk of pork that will cook in my oven for roughly 18 hours, with garlic and seasonings. I'll make a homemade apple sauce with it, which is easy to make and wonderful with pork.

      Pork shoulder is an incredibly cheap and large hunk of meat which means I can make a wonderful family meal fairly inexpensively.

      The meat market always displays wonderful cuts of meat but it's usually what you don't see that can be really great, and incredibly cheap. Once you can cook a few things it's fun to experiment with the cuts of meat that are less-often used or sometimes ground up or thrown away. The meat market guys usually know the good stuff and will advise you if asked.

      Likewise for the people who work in produce. At my local market I often ask what is in season or really good at the moment. One of them will always walk me to something good, whip out a knife, and cut me off a piece to try. It's how people learn. I've found the people at the deli and cheese counters or markets will do the same.

      Try things that you're not used to and the world of food will open up to you!
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      After eating Peanut Butter and Jelly for Breakfest, lunch, and dinner, and midday snacks for a month. One has to go on google and find gourmet ramen noodle recipes!
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      Quote Originally Posted by Daveisawizard View Post
      After eating Peanut Butter and Jelly for Breakfest, lunch, and dinner, and midday snacks for a month. One has to go on google and find gourmet ramen noodle recipes!
      The power of necessity ahaha xD

      Great replies so far guys, really appreciate all the feedback in those extensive posts, you really given me a new of what cooking may become to me: a new hobby
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      Quote Originally Posted by nito89 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by zoth00 View Post
      You have to face lucid dreams as cooking:
      Stick it in the microwave and hope for the best?
      MMR (Mental Map Recall)- A whole new way of Recalling and Journaling your dreams
      Trying out MILD? This is how you become skilled at it.

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      Yes, even a scientifically-minded bald monk needs a nice hobby.

      Ok, while I'm here, I'll share something I've learned about food - almost everything is better warm. Keep fruit and tomatoes etc out of the refrigerator and at room temperature. Get cheese out early and let it warm before eating. Get steaks out a couple hours early and let them warm up before cooking so you don't end up with the outside scorched and the inside still blood read and cold. Let milk warm for a while before drinking. Even after cutting a tomato, don't put it in the fridge - I keep a small corningware dish with a lid and after cutting a slice off a tomato I place it cut-side-down in the dish, which seals the cut end quite well, put the lid on, and just keep it in the pantry. I've kept tomatoes from drying out or going mushy for as long as 4 days this way. And my latest discovery - I now heat bologna in a skillet gently and halfway toast the bread. This brings out so much flavor and just makes it 150% nummier!! Oh, and if I'm putting tomato on a sandwich I'll also heat that in a skillet - not until it's scalding hot, just enough to warm it up and make it start to release all the aroma/flavor.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 03-27-2013 at 08:09 AM.
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      Mom taught me. Took a personal interest pretty quickly. I don't cook any crazy wild dishes, but I certainly enjoy cooking, and I have a pretty good grasp of what different spices and ingredients do for a dish and so on.

      When I cook food for others than just myself, it's very important to me that they like it, so I try to do my best.
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      I became interested lately (I'm nearly 19 now and living at home with my dad), so I asked mom to do it together with me. You know, show me the ropes and so she did. Now I come over every thursday to my mom's place to cook dinner for her. Last wednesday my mother came over to here and I surprised her by having dinner ready when she got home. Did it all myself for the first time.

      I guess my motivation to do this is because my dad is 68 years old, and I can really notice he's getting older so I want to relieve him of stress so I clean the house and try to cook as much as possible and I also thought it'd be interesting. Eating is a crucial part of surviving, it's a MUST so why not make the best of it right?

      Good luck OP.
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      Trial and error. And watching the unholy trinity of Rachel Ray, Iron Chef, and Epic Meal time. I started out making breakfast and burgers, and then took it to the grill at various pool/outdoor parties. There was someone always asking me to watch it for them, and then I would just sort of take over for the remainder of the food, since properly seasoned food grills itself. Then I learned how to make my own sauces. Eventually I took what I learned from there too the kitchen, and realized it's a lot simpler when you bake. Side dishes are a breeze since most of the basics require heat salt, pepper, and a little butter.

      After that, I started checking out the internets on how to make my favorite foods. That's probably the best thing about cooking....getting to eat exactly what you want. Also, the chicks dig it.

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      My father taught me how to cook. He was seriously a wizard in the kitchen-- he could whip up a five star dish in less than an hour, if he had enough alcohol in his bloodstream.

      His pro tips unto me, before I left home: (Quoted word-for-word. I wrote these down before I left.)

      -- Always keep a flask handy. Everyone cooks better after drinking a little bit too much vodka!

      -- Don't let long prep times and fancy french ingredients or whatever turn you off a recipe. If you want to cook something, COOK IT god dammit!

      -- Even if it turns out awful, eat it. That way you know what to improve for the next time.

      -- Feel free to mark up recipes and experiment with ingredients. You're a man now, and there won't be anybody there to tell you to stop playing with your food.

      -- If you don't have a tool that is needed to make something, buy it. Having a complete kitchen is more important than paying your damn electric bill.
      Darkmatters and zoth00 like this.

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