Deciding to Cook: A Leap of Faith into the Culinary World

It takes some chutzpah to decide you’re going to learn how to cook.

There’s always the dread of screwing up – of serving a piece of meat or chicken that’s burnt to a crisp on the outside and still gelatinous raw in the middle; of embarrassing yourself and your guests as both you and they politely attempt to gnaw on some barely recognizable, Frankensteinian version of what was supposed to be a simple hamburger, all while secretly hoping that no one gets poisoned; of spending hard-earned money at the grocery store and then spending hours in the kitchen, only to end up putting something inedible on the dinner table and having to order takeout anyway; of starting a fire and then having to read the directions on a fire extinguisher before dousing flames that are becoming increasingly… large.

I’ve been there.  And I’ve done all of these things and worse.  I’m not some great gourmet; I’ve never been to culinary school, and even after 15 years of cooking experience I still sometimes make dinners that suck.  I, like you, am simply another home cook muddling his way through recipes and experiments in the kitchen.

So why, you ask, would I start a cooking blog?

I firmly believe that anyone can learn to cook.    All it takes is a bit of courage, a little know-how and some practice to make better-than-restaurant-quality food in your own kitchen.  Many people believe that there are two types of people in this world – those who can cook, and those who can’t.  But I tend to agree with what my grandfather used to say:  “If you can read, you can cook.”  All it takes is being willing to boldly go where someone else already has gone before, taking a first leap of faith, and seeing what happens.

I began cooking for myself in college because I didn’t have the money to eat out every night and couldn’t bring myself to eat the sludge that was served in the dormitory cafeterias.  That was over 15 years ago now, and in that time I’ve learned a thing or two that might be helpful to someone out there.  At this point, most of what I produce in the kitchen (although not everything) is pretty damn delicious.

My friends, family, and co-workers regularly ask me to share my recipes and my knowledge with them. At dinner time, my kids whip out their phones and take pictures of the food on their plates (many of these pictures will be featured in this blog).  I hope this all means that I must not be too bad at what I do.  I also hope this blog might inspire someone out there to try their hand in the kitchen.  If this blog inspires one person to head to the grocery store and then their kitchen instead of the nearest crap-fast-food joint (or as my family calls it, “grr burger”) then it’s worth it.

This blog is therefore dedicated to people who love food and the sense of community and camaraderie that only sharing a delicious meal can bring, and who want more of that in their lives.  It is dedicated to anyone who has ever said “I can’t cook” but secretly always wished they could.  It is dedicated to people, like me, who don’t exactly have the cash on hand to spend premium dollars at expensive restaurants, but would still prefer not to eat McDonalds, Chinese take-out, frozen pizza, helper-roni and “grr burger” most nights of the week.  Lastly, this blog is dedicated to those who have real lives and real jobs and therefore don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen every night.  To that end, my commitment to you, my friend, is this:

  1. Most of the recipes in this blog shouldn’t take more than 60-90 minutes of active prep and cook time to prepare as long as there’s a little hustle involved – most will take less, a few will take more, but in the case of the latter that means there will be time to drink a beer while something smokes on the BBQ or simmers down on the stove.  (Or you can do what I do, and drink a beer while you hustle.)
  2. Most of the recipes on this blog should be the same price as – or cheaper than – fast food.  That means that I’m shooting for recipes that are in the range of $6-8 per plate.  Again, many will be less, a few will be more.  I’m not trying to compete with Ramen noodles or helper-roni in terms of price point here; if you want that, I can’t help you.  But if you want to learn to cook something that would cost mucho dinero in a quality restaurant (and maybe even taste better) for the same price as “grr burger” then I probably can.
  3. The recipes in this blog should be easy to follow.  One of the most daunting things about learning to cook is grabbing a cookbook, collecting the ingredients, and then not know what the hell the writer is talking about (i.e., “add X, deglaze and reduce…”)  If I use terms like these, I promise to at least explain them if not write a whole other blog post on them.
  4. The meals in this blog should be complete.  There’s nothing worse than finding a great recipe on the internet, going to the store feeling confident that you can pull it off, and then finding yourself standing in the check-out line thinking “Dammit.  What the hell am I going to serve with this?”  To that end, each post will include a main dish, several side-dishes, and a wine or beer pairing.  (Note:  You’re on your own for dessert until I can get my wife, the most amazing baker I’ve ever known, to contribute to this blog.)

So there you have it – the reason this blog exists.  I invite you to try the recipes contained herein and contact me if you have any questions.  I’m happy to help and inspire.

Good luck!

Jim G – The Intrepid Gourmet

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