Over the last few years, I have discovered that I really like cooking. It is a lot of fun to get in the kitchen and create something new and delicious for people to enjoy. As I have been learning my way around the kitchen and developing my culinary skills beyond merely boiling an egg, I have realized that cooking is a great analogy for life. Many of the things I have had to learn to become a better cook are some of the same lessons that you must learn in order to lead a happy, successful life. In an effort to share some of these life lessons from the kitchen with you, I am going to be running a new Roll Models series called “A Recipe for Success.” Today’s post, “Spice Things Up,” is the first entry in this group, and I will continue to publish articles from this series periodically. All of the recipes I reference in these posts will be available on my Pinterest cooking board with my comments, so that you can try them if you want. More importantly than passing on my culinary advice however, I also hope to pass on some of the valuable insights you can gain about life as you journey into the world of cooking. And if I happen to create a new chef or two along the way that is just gravy.
When I first started getting into cooking before I could barely even tell a sauce pan from a colander, I thought that cooking was merely looking up a recipe and following the instructions. I could not have been more wrong. While selecting good recipes and being able to follow them are a small part of being a good cook, this is something that anyone who can read could do, but you all know that not everyone can cook. In order to actually cook, you have to be able to go a step beyond what is written on the recipe card and be able to modify and alter the directions to improve the dish and make it your own. This is what separates working in the kitchen and cooking, and while this may seem like a very trivial distinction, I assure you it is not. There are lots of things you must learn in order to move over from using the stove to cooking, but the first and most important, lesson is to adopt the right culinary mindset. You have to have the confidence and curiosity to experiment with new foods and techniques, so that you are willing to go beyond the recipe and create something new. As crucial as this fearless, inquisitive mentality is to becoming a good cook though, it is an even more important part of living a happy and fulfilling life.
A perfect example of how important this curious and courageous nature is in the kitchen occurred just the other day as I was breaking in my new Dutch oven by trying a new recipe. The dish I was making was a chili mac and cheese that had rave reviews on Pinterest, so I thought I would give it a try. After I read through the list of ingredients and the cooking instructions, I realized though that if I made the dish as it was written, I definitely would not like it. I will not go into the specific details here (they are on my Pinterest board), but there were ingredients included in the recipe that I do not particularly like. Thanks to my cook’s mindset however, I was more than willing to make some changes and try to modify it to fit my tastes. I did not know how it would turn out or if it would even be edible after my alterations, but with the right perspective, you realize that the experimentation is part of the fun. I started spicing things up (I love spicy food), taking things out, and even adjusting the cooking temperature as I thought best. My curiosity and confidence to make these changes paid off too, as this culinary masterpiece had plenty of kick and turned out even better than I could have hoped. I never would have been able to make these improvements however, if I had not first developed the adventurous mentality to try something new.
Just as by adopting the right mindset is critical to being able to enjoy cooking and getting better at creating new foods, it is also a crucial part of living a full, happy life. If you go through life only doing exactly what everyone else has done and playing it safe all the time, sure you may not ever make any huge mistakes, but you will also never experience some of the new and exciting things that the world has to offer. You have to have the courage and questioning nature that pushes you to try something different, even if you do not know how it will turn out all the time, in order to get the most out of life. You cannot be afraid to spice things up because it may be too hot to handle, if you want to create the fulfilling, successful life you deserve. Trying new experiences, learning from your mistakes, and taking pride in your successes is all a part of achieving great things and living a full life, and this all starts with overcoming the fear to step out of your comfort zone and spice things up.
My recent culinary adventure with the now new and improved spicy chili mac and cheese is just one example of how you have to have a certain confidence in order to be a good cook. This delicious journey through my kitchen is a great illustration of how this mindset is equally important to your life in general though. By adopting this courageous outlook you may not always know how things will turn out, and you will probably ruin a few dishes along the way, but you will also get to experience and achieve some truly amazing things. Don’t limit yourself by being afraid to spice things up and try a new idea. You will be astonished at how much more you can get out of life, and your kitchen, by adopting this curious, confident mindset. You will not only fill your belly with some great food, but y will also fill your life with some incredible experiences and your heart with happiness.