Much like reading sheet music, reading recipes doesn’t do much for me. I just don’t really know what’s going on until I hear the tune or see the food being made (and get to smell and taste it). The best way I have found to learn to cook is by paying attention to others who are better than me, and then trying my hand at cooking myself. Perhaps that’s why I often turn to cooking shows when I want to learn to make something new.
things to watch
Below is a very small selection of cooking shows I enjoy watching, available to stream on YouTube:
↠ French Cooking at Home, with Laura Calder
Growing up, Laura’s cooking showed me how making time for inviting meals can be a simple but powerful way to elevate the everyday.
Besides her incredible hugs, my grandmother’s Caribbean cooking has always felt like the sincerest way for her to communicate the deep care and love she feels towards her family. Since, like me, she doesn’t care much for measuring ingredients or using recipes, I’ve had to find other ways of discovering the secrets of her classic island flavours.
↠ Barefoot Contessa, with Ina Garten
Happiness in the kitchen and merriment around the table. How bad can that be?
↠ Kenji’s Cooking Show, with Kenji López-Alt
Come for the laid-back and informative home cooking (first-person camera angles included). Stay for the adorable dogs.
I just really like Mary.
Nearly any TV show featuring a chef or home cook puttering about their kitchen and making family food is bound to grab my attention. I personally dislike all the programs that feature extreme competitions, glorify stressful cooking, and rebuke simple dishes or comforting classics — they make me feel edgy and I don’t learn much from them — but if these help you improve in the kitchen, then by all means go ahead and watch away.
things to read
If you prefer to consume words instead of images, but are keen to understand how to make food delicious (and what makes it so, as well as why), these two volumes may be a good investment. They certainly were for me.
↠ The Food Lab, by Kenji López-Alt
Are you (even just a little bit) a scientist at heart? If the answer is yes, then you will most definitely enjoy this mammoth of a cookbook.
↠ Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat
You could also watch the 4-part series inspired by the book rather than reading the book. Or, as I did, you could do both.
↠ Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volumes 1 & 2), by Julia Child and Simone Beck
Unlike many recipes you can find online these days, Julia Child’s were tested and re-tested extremely rigorously. They are also a bit old (like fashion, food has its trends), but its underlying philosophy remains as relevant as ever. That’s why I enjoy reading the book’s recipes as though they are little essays — these days the 20th century book feels more like a reference standard than something one can readily cook from.