Our (unofficial) Five Rules of Cooking

I don’t know how or why, but I started making up “the rules of cooking” with Maly a month or so ago. I think it was at some point when we were making a pizza, or it might have just been one of those random nights where I was cooking (which is a rarity these days) and I found myself trying to dispense knowledge to my offspring. These are just some basic “rules” that I’ve kind of abided by since I started really cooking 13 years ago. I figured I’d pass these along to Maly so she can learn to be efficient in the kitchen. So here they are, my (unofficial) Five Rules of Cooking for our kitchen:

  1. Mise en Place. This roughly translates into “everything in its place.” For me, it simply means keep the kitchen in order. Put things up when you’re done using them. Keep your work area tidy.
  2. You Can Always Add – You Can Never Take Away. Maly learned quickly that when she added too much salt to her soup, it became inedible. It’s fun to play with food, especially pinch the kosher salt from its vessel, but a pinch too much and there’s no going back. Granted there are some culinary tricks and voodoo if you add too much salt, spice, or milk, but as a rule of thumb, you can never take away. You can’t uncook a well-done steak and return it medium rare.
  3. Clean as You Go. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1 above, but really it’s to help eliminate having a bunch of pots, pans and utensils to clean after cooking, especially if you don’t have any help in the kitchen.
  4. Sample Before You Serve. You can’t serve food to your guests that you wouldn’t eat yourself. Plus, if you sample while you’re preparing, you’ll afford yourself time to make any necessary adjustments.
  5. Waste Not Want Not. Simply put: don’t be wasteful. Food is a gift of nourishment. Plus Murphy’s Law applies here — if you decide to throw away those extra mashed potatoes tonight, tomorrow you’re going to stumble across an unbelievable latke recipe.

Five “rules” are manageable, and they’ve definitely helped me hone my culinary skill and enthusiasm over the years. It helps to lay a good foundation before you start experimenting, screwing things up, learning from mistakes and eventually surprising yourself and others with a fantastic meal from your own kitchen.

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