Ah the first week of January. The week when people are most
delusional hopeful about what they can accomplish in the next 360-ish days that they failed to do over the last several thousand days.
I’m not as skeptical as I made that last sentence sound, but I do like to be ridiculously realistic in all matters: how much I can improve at any one task, how few cookies I will eat this year, or my likelihood of winning the lottery to fund 10 years of world travel.
If you’re a homebody and have better cookie-self-control than me, then the latter two of that list are of less interest to you. But almost everyone has some task they want to get better at (mine this year: progressing from wogging [walk-jogging] to actual running and making bread regularly… my goals relate to one another, as you can tell).
For me, being a better cook is a goal that’s kind of inherently always there. I enjoy it, so I always work on it.
If you fall into the category of people who cook to keep themselves alive, rather than for the fun of it, there’s no reason it can’t at least be tasty. And to make meals that taste better, I’d like to argue that you only really need one thing:
Please don’t roll your eyes and click away. I kid you not. Use enough teaspoons and you WILL become a better cook.
I used to get all the way through a recipe before I’d taste what I’d made, praying the whole time that my 45 minutes of labor would not be in vain. Now, we have at least 2 dozen spoons in our drawer, and we’re always out of them (having a toddler helps that too) because we (said toddler and I) taste constantly.
Taste your ingredients, the canned tomatoes, the maple syrup, the olive oil, the salt (have you ever actually tasted your iodized salt versus kosher salt? Do it!). Taste your dish as you go, before you salt, after you salt, without the herbs, when it’s “done” (to make sure it’s really done). Not only can you adjust the taste of the meal you’re making, but you’ll develop a sense of how to make things suit you in the future. When a dish tastes off in the future, you’ll begin to instinctively add a bit of salt, a splash of lemon juice, more cinnamon than the recipe calls for.
So go forth with your pack of a dozen extra spoons, taste with reckless abandon, and become a better cook this year!