Cooking: FAQ & Useful Links
Frequently Asked Questions
Most of us have hectic schedules and every minute counts. How do we find the time to cook?
It’s true, we’re way too busy, and working longer and longer hours. But consider that, in the last decade or so, we’ve all found two hours a day to be on line outside of work. So where did we get THAT time? The day is still only 24 hours long. The point is, we always find time for the things we value—and we’ve come to devalue cooking. My premise is that that was a big mistake—one that was abetted by food corporations and marketers eager to cook for us—and when you realize all that not-cooking is costing us and our families, you’ll be apt to carve out a little more time for it. And when you realize how pleasurable it can be, approached in the right spirit, you might just begin to devote some of your leisure to it. This is what happened to me. I came to think that, by letting corporations cook for us, we have been robbed of one of the greatest satisfactions in life. Let’s take it back!
What are some of the repercussions of becoming more and more dependent on processed and prepared foods?
As long as we let corporations do most of our cooking for us, our agriculture will continue to be dominated by giant monocultures of grain and animal factories. Big companies only know how to buy from big farms. That means the movement to build a more diversified and local agriculture can develop only so far unless people are willing to buy from those farms—and they will only buy from those farms if they’re cooking. In many ways, reforming American agriculture depends on rebuilding a culture of routine home cooking. I’ve come to think that cooking is a political act, with large consequences not only for ourselves but for the environment and agriculture as well. The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities, and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world. Our growing distance from any direct, physical engagement with the processes by which the raw stuff of nature gets transformed into a cooked meal is changing our understanding of what food is. Indeed, the idea that food has any connection to nature or human work or imagination is hard to accept when it arrives in a neat package, fully formed. Food becomes just another commodity, an abstraction. And as soon as that happens we become easy prey for corporations selling synthetic versions of the real thing—what I call edible food-like substances. We end up trying to nourish ourselves on images.
I don’t know how to cook. How can I learn?
There are lots of ways to learn to cook so don’t be disheartened if you don’t already know how. One of the best ways is to find a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor who knows how to cook. Ask that person if you can tag along and be their apprentice of sorts. They will appreciate the help and you’ll learn by watching and assisting. This is an especially good option for those of us who are more visually oriented learners. Online videos are also a great way to learn how to do particular things, like folding bread dough, poaching an egg or canning tomatoes. If you don’t know how to do something, search Youtube. Chances are there’s a video how-to on that very topic. Below we’ve put together a list of cooking videos, classes, and online tools to help you hone your cooking skills.
There are a few dozen video tutorials on making meals from Great Depression with an amazing woman in her 90s named Clara. They are all worth watching but start with how to make dandelion salad. Don’t miss her last video, posted when she was 96, on how to make tomato sauce from scratch.
America’s Test Kitchen, publishers of the Cook’s Illustrated magazine, hosts a great Youtube channel with dozens of videos on everything from cooking and brining dry beans to chopping garlic and making carnitas. If you don’t want to get lost in the millions of cooking videos on Youtube, you can search just within in America’s Test Kitchen channel.
Watch Chad Robertson, of Tartine, make and fold bread.
Chow.com has some good videos on a host of topics. Try these.
Easiest Way to Sterilize Jars for canning.
Making Italian Gnocchi with Grandma Paola (this is one of Chow’s “Cooking with Grandma” series, which is worth exploring.)
Jill Santopietro, a longtime recipe tester for the New York Times Magazine, has a series of videos filmed in her tiny New York kitchen.
COOKING CLASSES AND OTHER WAYS TO LEARN TO COOK
Many community colleges offer basic cooking classes at a really affordable rate. Find a community college near you.
Check out this free, beautiful book full of recipes that fit a food stamp budget: Good and Cheap
Food Co-operatives: Local co-ops often offer food education and free and low-cost cooking classes for their members and greater community. Find a food co-op near you.
Land Grant University –Sponsored State Cooperative Extensions: Often the best way for folks to find state-certified experts who provide quality, affordable education on agriculture, nutrition, cooking and preservation, especially in rural communities. Find resources near you.
USDA Snap-Ed Connection: a helpful resource for families on a limited food budget.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation (GA/National): great resources for canners.
International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Kids in the Kitchen: culinary professionals who work on culinary education for kids.
SkillShare: this innovative platform allows almost anyone, anywhere to teach a project-based class either online to a global community or offline in their local community. You can search for cooking, brewing or bread baking classes in your region.
LifeHacker: Cooking advice, recipes and how to’s.
Food Craft Institute (Oakland): quality, 6 to 12-week long instruction from professional food crafters and artisans.
The Institute of Urban Homesteading (Oakland): diverse, local instructors providing great, affordable classes on basic food skills for the “urban farm kitchen.”
18 Reasons (San Francisco): offers a wide variety of classes on cooking, fermentation, cheese making and even mindful eating.
Three Squares (Bay Area): offers nutrition education and improved access to healthy food in low-income communities.
La Cocina (San Francisco): food entrepreneurs offer monthly cooking classes at their kitchen incubator.
Draeger’s (South Bay Area): A local grocery store that offers cooking classes.
Cooking the Common Core (SF): Teacher training that gives 4th and 5th grade educators engaging, standards-based cooking lessons for students in the outdoor classroom.
NextCourse (SF): Provides great programs that help folks purchase cook, and eat locally-produced foods.
The Ceres Community Project (Sonoma County, CA): offers classes and resources.
Stone Barns Center (NY): A great resource for educators, offers field trips, teacher training and classes.
Cathy Erway teaches New Yorkers how to “eat in”, with her food blog and radio show.
Haley House (Boston): provides home-cooked meals to the hungry, teaches volunteers and community members to cook in the process.
A SHORT SHELF OF BOOKS ON COOKING
The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler
How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee
The Barbecue! Bible, by Steven Raichlen
Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallmann
Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine, by Daniel Boulud
Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, by Paula Wolfert
A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis
Soffritto: Tradition and Innovationin Tuscan Cooking, by Benedetta Vitali
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart
Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, by Peter Reinhart
Tartine Bread, by Chad Robertson
The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz
How to Brew, by John J. Palmer