Cooking is a big part of what makes us human, says legendary food writer Ruth Reichl, author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. And just as we err in all other facets of life, to make mistakes while learning to cook is only natural. In fact, it’s through these small bits of failure that we improve in our abilities and heighten our passion for food.
Ruth Reichl: Cooking is a big part of what makes us human. And it is our natural activity. Anybody who’s ever spent much time with a kid knows that all kids love to cook. When you’re cooking at six, seven, eight, everybody thinks it’s adorable and they tell you, no matter how horrible it is, they tell you how great it is. And so it doesn’t occur to you that you could make a mistake and you eventually, you repeat it because everybody’s like, "Isn’t that great?" And you become a good cook through cooking. And you can’t expect too much of yourself the first few times. We in the media — and I take a certain amount of responsibility for this — have frightened people away from cooking. So the first thing I would say is don’t think you have to make perfect meals. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We do so much result-oriented cooking where, you know, we’re so concerned about what we’re going to end up with that we don’t pay attention to the journey. And cooking is an adventure and, you know, if you make a mistake with something that you cook, it’s a meal, you know. There’s another one a few hours later. I mean big deal. Find someone you trust, say, you know, whose recipes do you trust? And make a simple recipe and just find out what a pleasure it is to give that to someone that you care about and watch their eyes light up and their pleasure in something that you’ve cooked for them. It becomes kind of a drug. I mean once you feed people wonderful food and they like it, you want to do it again and again and again.