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Why: ‘How to Kitchen’

When I was a teenager and friends of my parents came to visit, I ever so often got asked: “And? Do you already know how to cook?”

The response usually was something like: “Ahem,... phrrghh... ah,... yeah, a bit. I am helping mum a lot in the kitchen.”

Thing is: I didn’t know what that question meant. When does one know how to cook?

I did help my mum a lot in the kitchen, though. I loved it. She was a working mum and during this bit of the day when she was cooking we had the most wonderful ‘us’ time. It was warm, it smelled good, we got to nibble things, and we had time to talk. This way I didn’t learn recipes, I learned kitchen rules!

I picked up things as we went along. I of course knew what we would have for dinner, and when I was sent to fetch the butter or some other ingredient, this information would sink into the subconscious. Other things she explained, and so I learned why some things are made with hot water and others with cold, why some things get thoroughly washed in salt water, others only get quickly rinsed and some don’t get washed at all. I learned about temperature settings and about little cheats when we would run out of an ingredient – which would later result in one of my greatest skills: Improvisation!

I however very rarely did cook a proper meal all by myself, I was the sou-chef, I got to do bits and pieces here and there, was usually in charge of salad and desert, or checking on the potatoes; so how could I confidently say that I was able to cook?

And see: This question was still bugging me these days! If I were asked by my friend who barely knows which room of the house the kitchen is, then I would respond with a confident ‘Yes!’ If Gordon Ramsey would ask me, I would respond with a confident ‘No!’ And yet, here I am trying to teach you how to cook.

Eventually some 40+ years on from my first kitchen experience I figured: This question is not important. It is important, in which ways the skill to handle a kitchen can help to manage the nitty-gritty bits of life.

I am in the 6th year of ‘Project Rika’ now. As some of you might remember: At the beginning I didn’t even really know what I wanted. I wanted change! I was generally unhappy for no good reason, a bit too fat on my way to obesity, had back pain, migraines, bad skin, swollen feet and puffy eyes. Nothing severe, but with no prospect of relief would I go on with this lifestyle. Something was surely wrong, but what? I got kick-started with Trinny and Susannay to change my style of clothing, which led to the wish for weight loss, which brought me back to the gym, which led to the wish to improve nutrition, which brought me back into the kitchen. For some of you the problems may lie elsewhere, and your starting point for change may be a different one, but I promise you: There will be a point where you will need your kitchen to get it all sorted.

When I realised that I got fatter and fatter, I thought I should stay out of the kitchen, because my style of cooking was a rather traditional, high calorie one. However, food is what keeps us going and hence helps us to achieve what we want to achieve, whatever that is. Even with a very busy work lifestyle, there are bits and pieces take-away food can’t give you. If it is money problems which are bugging you – check your food bills. The kitchen can help you save quite a bit and if it is not that, then it is a wonderful place to contemplate. I get the best ideas for my articles while preparing food. There are so many repetitive tasks, that the mind is starting to float and all of a sudden you find answers you never would have thought of otherwise. Well, and should it turn out that if health and/or shape are your worries – the kitchen is the place to be.

So, what did I want my kitchen to do for me?

  • Saving money – yes, wouldn’t be a bad thing, but not top of the list
  • Do not take too much time off the other stuff I had to do for ‘Project Rika’ (going shopping and to the gym, and at a later stage writing ) – absolutely essential
  • Solve the swollen feet/puffy eye problem – oh yes, that would be wonderful.
  • Help reduce my weight for good – oh yeah, that’s the one!
  • Get hubby into the kitchen more often, so I could get out of it more again – Yippee! Good one!
  • Help me to not use pre-processed food – saw Jamie’s School Dinners showing what disgusting things are in processed food. Imagine that stuff creeping into every single cell of my body... brrr!

I declared a ‘Project Kitchen’ and started experimenting.

Experimenting means: Get to know the subject you are experimenting with, think outside the box, bend some rules, and most importantly forget about tradition, how it was in the old days and all the recipes as you know them.

These are the new times, this is YOUR time, now YOU are calling the shots. And to get you started I give you the first three rules of your personal rule-set:

Rule number one

Every kitchen has a chef – not a cook, a chef! The chef is the boss, the chef is in charge and what the chef says is law!

In your kitchen you are the chef!

Everybody else might use a spoon (especially grandmas and mums), if you are using a fork, then a fork it is! If you like your chicken with Marmite, then you just created a chicken recipe with Marmite! If it works for you, then do it!

Rule number two

You will have to figure out what it is that you want to achieve and what you want your kitchen to help you to do.

Study your subject!

That could be your time management, your purse, your body, the parties you want to entertain. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, you won’t know what to do about it.

In my classes I am hoping to do for you what my mum did for me. I will cook recipes, yes of course I will, but these recipes will be chosen to teach you some kitchen rules, and not to make you learn by heart the number of ingredients.

Detlef – dear hubby, that is (yes, it worked!) – cooked our favourite chicken soup all by himself for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We usually do it together; he helps chopping and measuring things while observing what I am doing. Well, he forgot the ginger. Not a big deal! The soup was great, nevertheless. When we had the next batch with ginger, we found that the ginger is not very prominent anyway, but gives a bit of body to the recipe.

What do we learn from that? In the end the ingredients don’t matter as long as it works as a recipe for you.

This brings us to:

Rule number three

Recipes follow certain rules in combining ingredients. Only if you know those rules and if you know which role an ingredient plays in a dish, for your body or your purse, you will be able to bend the rules to your liking.

Study the kitchen rules and your ingredients

So cooking classes are a bit like learning an instrument:

Your kitchen is your instrument, and the recipe is your melody

While still learning the instrument you will have to stick to the very simple pieces; this is the boring time of learning the rules. Once those are settled in you will learn more complicated pieces and you will learn about the different keys, rhythm, styles; that’s when one eventually can see some success and the fun part kicks in – and when you have achieved that, you will be the master of your kitchen, able to bend the rules to your liking, and to develop your own style. By that time all the other stuff, which you had started the whole kitchen experience for, will have fallen into place all by itself.

It did for me!

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Quark - Quickie
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Prawn Indulgence
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MySecretKitchen Dinner Party

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Copyright 2007
Author: Rika