Half Man Half Noodle

The recipe

Cooking is a different experience for everyone. One branch love the idea of being immersed in the experiment, tasting along the way and sharing the final product with friends. Whilst others are filled with anxiety about not being good enough, messing up the measurements or not knowing exactly what to look for when tasting. Along with breathing, this is present in our lives each and every day.

If you cook the same meals every day, does this mean you have to do this for the rest of your life? If you wanted to, is it within the realms of possibility that you could learn to cook something new? Why don’t you want to cook something new? Is it possible that you could become exceptionally good at cooking a particular dish that you have yet to even cook once? Do you have a set idea that you either are or aren’t a good cook? Do you cook from fresh or make ready meals? Why? Taste, convenience, time, money, self-belief? These are all ideas we have about who we are.

People either believe they can cook or they can’t. It’s a chore, a necessity, a passtime or a passion. I love those people who stroll into the kitchen and create a masterpiece by using whatever ingredients are at hand but it’s a skill I’ve never cultivated. The cooking process fascinates me. When broken down to its most basic components it’s very simple, but can be overwhelming when looking at the final product alone. Which applies to all aspects of our lives. How you approach cooking is how you approach life. How do you approach cooking?

The first step is deciding what you want to cook. Is this a meal that’s just for you or are you cooking for others? Is it a special occasion? If it’s for you, do you know what you like? Or more importantly, what do you want? Do you want to cook a healthy meal that will nourish your body or is it a decadent treat? It’s likely you cook a certain dish because you want to feel a certain way, such as a hearty soup for comfort in winter. You have set beliefs about how certain meals affect your mood. If you’re cooking for others you’ll have other thoughts in mind, dietary requirements, maybe wanting to cook something impressive to display your skill or to provide a special experience for others. This entire process may cause you high levels of anxiety or unparalleled levels of delight depending on your mindset and the particular situation. Maybe it’s easier to cook for your partner because you know what they like but harder for yourself because you’re indecisive.

Once you know what you’re going to cook, it then becomes a matter of how. You need a plan or a recipe. The instructions. The hardest part is deciding what you want the final product to be. Once you’ve made a decision, you can put a plan in place to make it happen. It often doesn’t matter what you decide to cook as long as you decide on something. If you go into cooking without knowing what you want to end up with, no ingredients and no preparation, it’s likely you will end up with some quick noodles that have been in the cupboard for months. Or you might order takeaway. Maybe you find value in paying another person to do the work for you. This may be convenient for your lifestyle but how does it ultimately effect your health?

With the recipe in mind, you source your ingredients. When do you buy and where from? Does cost factor in? If you want to impress you may go for the freshest and best, spend an entire day travelling around the city to get the best ingredients including that truffle oil from an Italian delicatessen. When you put this level of effort in, you’re increasing the likelihood of an incredible result. This has a lot to do with the purpose. If it’s a standard Wednesday lunch you’re prepping for work, it may not need this level of attention. If you’re working to a budget you may not be able to spend this much on the meal either. It’s all to do with working towards your specific goal.

Now you’re in the kitchen ready to cook. Do you weigh everything exactly to the recipe or do you trust your ability to improvise? Is this because you trust yourself or because you can’t be bothered with the effort? Do you taste along the way? Do you watch a video to help? Do you ask others for their opinion? Are you comfortable with the process? This experience is different for all of us depending on experience, approach to problem solving and preparation. Do you chat on the phone with your friend as you do it, not a care in the world? All of these factors display comfort, thought process and attention to detail.

As you cook, how do you deal with problems? If it doesn’t taste as it should during the process do you freak out or adjust the flavour using salt and pepper? Do you not taste and simply wait for the end result because you trust the process or because you wouldn’t know what to do if it tasted weird? Tasting as you go is the obvious thing to do but facing the truth can be paralysing even though instinctively you know feedback is essential for growth. How can you know if you’re going in the right direction if you don’t stop to taste? How do you know what to change? Even if you don’t know exactly, could you not google “what to do if meal tastes too much like lemon?” Or is it easier to ignore and tell yourself “it is what it is?” Are you in control?

Finally, it’s done. Time to plate up. Is presentation important for you? Do you eat on the couch in front of the TV or is it no phones at the dining table? How does it taste? Are people impressed? Have you read your target audience correctly and executed a successful meal? If not, do you take criticism well? Do you feel as if a less than ideal meal is part of your identity? That you’re a failure as a person? Or simply a meal that could be improved on given your new found experience. Do you respect the opinion of those giving the criticism? Will people ask you for your recipe? Your approach to cooking. If they do, are you happy to share the secret of how you achieved success or are you wary about seeing others succeed?

How we approach cooking is how we approach everything. The small things are the big things.