Someone who is learning to boil pasta correctly asked me if I had any cooking advice. I immediately replied “always have a frozen pizza you can bake if things don’t go as planned.” I (superfluously) added “start simply,” “stick with a basic cookbook,” “master your favorites,” “have your ingredients ready before you start,” and “read and visualize every single step before you begin, no matter how minor.”
The panic in his eyes made me think he was sorry he asked.
Even though I yammered on way more than necessary, my point about the pizza is important.
I am not a great home cook, but the people I feed are mostly pleased most of the time. I’ve learned to vary recipes to suit my tastes, and I’ve become pretty good at finding recipes that are easy and delicious.
My “strength” in the kitchen is my confidence. For so long, I was paralyzed by “what if I screw up? what if this tastes terrible? what if I work on this for hours and then there’s nothing to eat?” I would also spend so much money on “fancy” ingredients that I didn’t always have enough in my food budget to eat again for a few days. So the consequence of “screwing up” was pretty serious.
Hence, the pizza in the freezer. If there’s a backup, a safety net, something that I can put in my tummy if things go terribly awry, I can tackle any cooking task. Experience, too, gives me confidence, but it’s the knowledge that things can’t go completely off the rails if there’s something that can become dinner.
I also believe that I can cook anything with enough patience and time. Certain recipes are daunting; however, they can be broken down into manageable steps. While I don’t deliberately search for difficult cooking tasks, I can face them calmly if I want or need to.
If some poor soul were to ask me if I had any writing advice, I wouldn’t know what to say. I would probably share some well-known (because they are useful) platitudes about consistency and reading a lot. I would also feel like a fraud. When it comes to writing, I don’t have the confidence. I’m still looking for the “frozen pizza” of writing advice.
Let me know if you’ve found it.