Xavier Jared

TwoShay

Two brothers on personal development, philosophy, and being awesome

No Recipe Cooking

Jared,

I don’t follow recipes when I cook. Maybe it’s the anti-establishment rage I harbour from years of growing up in the suburbs, or maybe it’s my masculine urge to avoid reading instructions at all costs. Whatever the reason, I’ve taken to not using recipes and now believe it to be a superior method of cooking. Also it’s the masculine urge thing.

Pasta
Mystery pasta dish the first

Most of what you’ll find in a recipe is filler. There’s going to be a handful of ingredients that are more or less essential and the rest are just hanging round like nerds on a basketball court (Xav*). Even those few key ingredients will be burdened with excess baggage like quantities and preparation instructions. You get a feel for what’s needed and what isn’t pretty quickly, and the more you do it the more confident you become. Not just in what you wang in but also how you wang it. I very rarely measure things or time how long something takes to cook. I eyeball everything and will taste to see if an edible state has been reached. Intuitively this might not seem like a very reliable method of cooking. It really is though and in my four years of independent living and cooking I don’t think I’ve ever had any major kitchen fails. I’ve had lots of kitchen wins though.

*Xav is what I and many others call Xavier (pronounced zave). X Man, Professor Xavier, and vitamin X are also names you could call him, however they are far less common.

Why is This Better?

I’m not going to open a restaurant and the majority of the meals I cook are just for me. Food, and by extension cooking, are a part of the way I live my life. I don’t use a recipe for life, so I don’t use one for cooking. You are going to eat a lot of food before you die. You owe it to yourself to start learning how food works. Recipes are great for starting this process but the sooner you stop using them the sooner you start really understanding what’s going on.

I’m not talking about nutrition here—though there is obviously some overlap and the TwoShay hive mind (both of us) highly recommend you get a book or two about it—I’m talking straight about getting tasty eats up inside of ya. Foregoing the recipe forces you to pay attention to what is making things taste the way they do and how things cook differently and combine together. Once you’ve got a basic grasp of this you can really start experimenting and making things up from scratch. Best of all though you’ll be able to cook whatever you want and use whatever ingredients you have lying around—you’ll be able to cook to live, and that’s a very awesome life skill.

Pasta
Mystery pasta dish the second

Recipes do have their uses. Obviously you need to start somewhere and if you’re a beginner the smart move is to hit up the book shop for some cooking howtos. Whenever I want to learn to cook something new I will use a recipe and I still love a good recipe book even if it’s just to sit alone in a dark room and eye sex the pictures. I use them a bit different to how most people would though. Here’s my guide to following a recipe but still maintaining non-chump status.

Step 1. Decide what you want to cook.

Step 2. Pump that sucker into Google and open as many recipes as you can see on the front page in new tabs

Step 3. Power read them like that one time you accidentally took NoDoz instead of Ritalin. Your aim is to mentally factor out the key ingredients. You’ll run into a wide variety of styles with two extremes, the first being the mid day TV Mum. She likes minimal ingredients, usually opts for big brands, pre-packed shortcuts and uses the microwave enough to render your grandchildren sterile. The other end of the spectrum is the authentic Mum who comes from the country of origin of whatever you’re making. She’ll use more ingredients than you have blood vessels, most of it will be off the wall shit you’ve never heard of, and will constantly harp on about her mum and much better her version was. You want to try and hit that sweet spot between the two. This whole process should only take a couple of minutes. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Just get those two or three ingredients that will really define the dish, pad them out with what ever you have handy and take a stab at quantities and how to throw ‘em together.

Step 4. Cook, photograph for longevity, consume.

Pancakes
Pancake with walnuts and blueberries and things

You Really Don’t Screw Up

In my experience you need to work pretty hard to strike out on a dish. Even the absolute worst case scenarios will turn out edible. Just be confident and play it safe. Heat can burn things, things that have strong flavours can wreck up the place if you put too much in. If you’re really not sure add things in small amounts and taste as you go

Apologies if you started reading this thinking I was going to drop a Mr Miagi style metaphor about cooking and life and kung fu. Awesomeness doesn’t have to come from big life changing decisions. More often than not it comes from everyday activities and a mindset of “how can I make the most of this?” And If Xav can get away with posting what he puts in his back pack then I can get away with posting what I put in my face.

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