• Carla

Knife Skills

I love cooking shows. I don't always love cooking competition shows, but I love watching people who are good at something do that something. I also enjoy learning and feeding my body well, so basically, cooking shows are an all-around win for me in the personal growth category.

When I started cooking for myself in college, I ate on a budget and definitely not anything fancy, but found I enjoyed the act of making food, and especially enjoying that experience with friends. I also worked at our campus food court and learned a lot about veggie prep, flavor, and basic cooking techniques.

Was I trying to be a culinary master?


Was I concerned about how good my food was?

Yes, but only insofar as to whether it was edible or not.

Was I discouraged if something burned or turned out not-so-great?

Not really. I had zero experience and was developing skills that are multifaceted in an area of knowledge that is constantly growing, changing, and innovating.

My point being, I have been learning how to cook and bake for almost 20 years and show no signs of stopping! I naturally seek out knowledge anyway, but there is no possible way to ever know everything there is to know about cooking, and I like it that way. An expanding culinary field means that I will never run out of ways to grow or be surprised. The fact that things are changing all the time also frees me from a fixed mindset of what it means to have "mastered" something. I feel good about the things I know how to do and enjoy pushing my edge through new recipes and improvisation. That is all anyone can really ask for with something they enjoy and want to get better at, I think.

In the beginning I was making lot of processed food with huge portions and simple techniques. With it being college times, my minuscule budget and packed schedule also dictated what I was able to afford and the amount of time I could spend in the kitchen. At the food court, I learned how to chop veggies more efficiently during many early-morning prep shifts. Through it all, I just kept cooking and baking. I never had a goal or deadline or certain skill level I wanted to reach. The pressure was never there to "produce" (badoom-chssssh) because no one was breathing down my neck, including my own damn self.

Working with food is just something I naturally gravitated toward and is something I continue to enjoy. I have tried, almost burned a kitchen down with a wok, and tried again. I have found recipes I love and recipes I hate. I have developed the ways of doing things that suit me and also learned a lot about vegan substitutions along the way. I improvise, I taste my food, and I make what I love.

Not once did I question needing to learn a new skill if I didn't already have it. The stakes were also low for me too because cooking was a joyful side-project and not my career path. Watching my daughter proudly stir a pot of berry compote with a secret spice mixture she has concocted and offering me a taste, or seeing my not-even-five-year-old son confidently pick up a butterknife to chop up a cheese stick like he was born with one in his hand helps me to stay humble and reassess how I approach my life and creative endeavors on a regular basis. I keep reminding myself that a lack of pressure and expectations, doing things I love simply because they bring me joy, and being open to the art of practicing is what makes everything have an underlying ease to it, and that is what leads to flow.

Why on Earth do we allow the pressure we put on ourselves or others put on us to squash our joy!? Where did this idea come from that if something is hard sometimes that we must not be very good at it or that we are somehow unworthy to keep doing it?

Chopping onions will always produce tears. That is just their way. The idea of eliminating the tears that come with "chopping onions" (i.e. pushing ourselves to an appropriate edge) is not realistic and certainly not helpful. So, if we acknowledge the fact that a few tears are simply part of the process, the question then becomes whether or not we love what we are doing enough to brave the failures, shed the tears, and take the time to learn ways of doing things that make us cry the least.

Even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes like the best thing in the world if you're hungry enough.

(Sprinkling a little love in there helps too.)

Thank you for joining me. I am so glad you’re here!


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