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Nearly 28% of Americans admit they have no idea how to cook. What a staggering percentage of people that wouldn’t know how to fix a meal if restaurants and convenience packaged foods didn’t exist! And only 20% of Americans cook on a daily basis. Moving to a homestead requires a complete shift of mindset in this regard. If you’re going to move out of town then you need to be able to survive it.
Learning to cook will keep you safe and alive if a situation arises where you cannot get out to your favorite fast food place or your grocery store. Sure, if you have a well-stocked supply of canned goods you could eat cold chili or soup. You could make yourself a salad of canned corn, carrots, and potatoes. You could survive. But deciding to homestead and be self-sufficient means being able to do more than survive when a situation is grim.
The Right Tools
Embarking a cooking education requires the right tools. Thankfully you don’t need to go out and spend a ton of money on fancy pots and pans or special tools. There are plenty of high-quality pots and pans available at second-hand stores like Goodwill. Consider picking up cast-iron pots and pans, even if you have an electric range at home. While you won’t be able to use cast iron on the glass cooktop, these are a tool that is incredibly important if you lose power and have to cook over an open flame. Cooking over a campfire will ruin anything other than cast iron.
Invest in a good quality cookbook. My personal favorite is the 1978 Betty Crocker Cookbook. While certainly an older cookbook, the convenient binder style allows you to pull recipes out of the cookbook. Frequently used recipes can be stored in plastic sheet protectors, and the pictures, charts, and diagrams help to educate new cooks on everything from cuts of meat to types of cakes and cookies.
You’ll also want to head over to your local dollar store and pick up a set of measuring cups and spoons, a few plastic spatulas, and definitely a ladle. While you could certainly go to a more expensive store to pick up your cooking tools – why would you? Most of the tools from these stores last the same amount of time and are roughly the same quality. When you’re looking at buying a new potato peeler every year isn’t it better to spend a dollar rather than ten? Save the money to invest in a quality set of knives and a good, easy-to-use sharpener.
Lastly, you’ll need your ingredients. I recommend starting with something simple but rewarding – a soup or stew. With a recipe like this, your greatest challenge is going to be picking something that looks good, and learning how to chop your veggies and maybe brown your meat.
Expanding Your Skill Set
Checking out food blogs, videos, and even cooking shows are a great way to expand not just your knowledge, but also your skills and your repertoire. You can also learn about new ingredients or exotic varieties of common ingredients.
My favorite example of this is learning about the Hen of the Woods and Oyster mushrooms after watching an episode of The Barefoot Contessa. Normally I don’t sit through that particular cooking show but I happened to catch her Cream of Mushroom soup recipe one afternoon and decided to try out the more exotic mushrooms the next time I needed some. I’ve enjoyed including them in recipes ever since.
Learning Your Limits
Cooking is not unlike gardening in that you can learn how to do almost everything but there are somethings that you’ll probably struggle with more often than not. For me, it’s cakes and bread. I cannot get a loaf of bread to rise no matter how hard I try. Thankfully, bread is a convenience food more than anything. I finally decided to just buy a bread machine. Don’t try to make yourself a gourmand. If you excel at making breads but struggle with cookies then don’t worry about baking cookies. If you just can’t do rice on your stove, then get a rice cooker! Foods that provide essential nutrition don’t generally need special cooking skills to eat.