Halloween Special: Burbling Blood Blondies
What do Pepper and Salt Bring to the Family Dinner?

A Halloween Fright: Thoughts on Learning to Cook and the Value of Blogging


Back when my book “Man with a Pan” came out, I was often asked about how hard it is to learn to cook. I had a good answer, I thought. I used to say that learning to cook is like learning to ride a bicycle: Tricky at first, but once you get it, you can go anywhere.

Only recently did I fully realize how apt a metaphor that is for the home cook. A bicycle might take you anywhere, but it won’t take you very far, very quickly. For a home cook, that’s just fine. You learn a dozen or so techniques, the recipes follow, and soon enough (meaning a couple of years, but when you are raising kids, that goes by in a blink), and, well, you’re cooking every day, and everyone is happy.

That pretty much describes my life, which is fine except for, perhaps, this blog. I’ve hit a limit with what I can offer. I’m riding a bike, not a motorcycle (which might be the metaphor for someone who goes to culinary school—watch out, don’t open a restaurant and crash!), so I find it harder and hard to find useful things to post about. I might want to eat my roast chicken, black beans, and Bolognese once a week, but does anybody want to read about it over and over? (John Lanchester, in the current New Yorker, talks about this much more eloquently.)

Also, as much as I love cooking and writing, my true love is drawing. I’m figuring out how to motivate myself to draw more (it’s complicated, just ask my therapist), and I took note of a recent piece in the New York Times about a Japanese organizer named Marie Kondo. Her new book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” advocates discarding “everything that does not ‘spark joy’,” according to the article. She give instructions to carefully fold (and consider) everything in one’s possession, imbibing them with the utmost care. 

Believe me, my kitchen (to say nothing of my house and life) could use a bit of tidying up, so I was interested. I’m not convinced I should follow her advice completely, but I realized that I could draw my possessions instead of folding them, and in that get better organized (in every sense of the word).

Drawing sparks joy in me every time I do it. I’m going to start with things in the kitchen, because that’s where I spend the most time. I’ll draw my staples. I’ll draw my storage containers. I’ll draw my drying dishes. I’ll draw anything. And I hope to learn how to run my kitchen better by taking such care. As I do, I’ll share my insights with you. 

In honor of Halloween, I present a drawing of one of my key staples, garlic. It is something that everyone should have around the house at all times. It keeps well, and is beyond useful, and not just in repelling vampires. Tell me how you use garlic, in a comment or by email, and I’ll send the person with the most creative response (and best recipe) a print of the drawing.

comments powered by Disqus