Gaining Confidence in the Kitchen

Anyone can become a great cook. But, like most things in life, it takes practice. I never went to cooking school and was a VERY picky eater as a child. My mom still can’t believe it when she sees her daughter, who, for many years, would only eat white food, slurping down oysters and shoveling guacamole into her mouth. It’s true. I lived on white rice, bread, potatoes, and chicken for much of my early childhood, and absolutely nothing on my plate could touch—a real parenting nightmare. But then, in college, I started watching the Food Network daily, and that was the beginning of my love affair with food. The more I watched, the more I wanted to try my hand at cooking. So, I would go to my mom’s house and make a new recipe each week. And, let me tell you, there were A LOT of failures along the way. Matzo balls as hard as rocks that my mom so graciously tried to pretend to enjoy, burnt chicken, and overcooked pasta. But, I kept trying, kept learning from my mistakes, and over time gained confidence in the kitchen. In addition to the Food Network, several cookbooks have helped me along the way, filled with recipes that are clear and simple, the kind of recipes that will start to give you confidence in the kitchen. The more you cook, the more you will begin to trust your sense of taste and smell, and a great place to start is with simple dishes. You’ll then gain the confidence to improvise when needed, adjust seasoning and ingredients even when a recipe might say differently, and trust your judgment in the kitchen. Cooking and my love of food have expanded the joy in my life in a way I could never have imagined as a young girl, but I am so grateful that it has come to be such a huge part of my day to day. Nothing fills my soul with more satisfaction than cooking for and nourishing the ones I love. It is an incredible gift to give yourself and others.

Here are ten cookbooks that I continue to go back to again and again, filled with simple and delicious recipes:

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
The Art of Simple Food
The Art of Simple Food II
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Small Victories
IT’S ALL GOOD
David Tanis Market Cooking
Barefoot Contessa at Home
Modern Comfort Food
The Frankies Spuntino

Photography by Anna Wolf