Learning to cook is an invaluable life skill. Knowing how to rustle up your own meals makes you more self sufficient, encourages creativity and, since you’ll want to show off your culinary masterpieces, can boost your social skills.
“The student who can cook is always the most popular person in halls of residence at university,” says Sam Stern, author of several student cookbooks.
In a culture of more take-aways and eating out options than ever before and supermarket shelves stacked with ready-meal options, finding the motivation to learn to cook is the trickiest bit. Statistics seem to show that while we love the passive consumption of cookery shows on TV and online, we are less willing to actually get off the sofa and roll up our sleeves in the kitchen.
Snip off those apron strings
It’s never too early to encourage children to cook and never too late for unruly teens to redeem themselves in the kitchen.
“Starting kids cooking at a young age is a great way of teaching them about healthy eating and helping them broaden their palate before they become fussy eaters,” says Nicole Freeman, founder of the Kids’ Kitchen cookery school. ” I believe that enjoying their time in the kitchen lays the foundation for a love of cooking and a curiosity about food and where it comes from.”
Although mum’s meals are often the best, there will inevitably come a time when a young person has to cook for his or herself. Teaching children how to cook will set them up for the future, says Isabel Burt, director of the Orchards School of Cookery, which specialises in courses for teenagers: “Cooking is a life skill that enriches a person’s life as well as those around them. Its benefits are far-reaching and it touches on health, confidence, creativity, friendships, planning, organisation and happiness .”
Cook, eat, feel good
It’s often far easier than expected to master a few simple recipes and to build on that basic knowledge. In fact, acquiring a repertoire of recipes with proven results is very satisfying. This increased confidence in your cooking capabilities will in turn encourage experimentation and stir creativity.
“This can be knife skills, other tips and tricks, or stages to look for at various points of the cooking process that show that something is done, or can be turned over,” says Rachel Davies who runs Rachel’s Kitchen cookery classes. “It’s hard to get these from recipe books, and experiencing them and doing it yourself is the best way to learn.”
Relax! It’s good for you
If you make time for cooking it can be a great way to unwind. It’s widely acknowledged that to start the day with a seated breakfast comprising, say, nutritious breakfast cereals and a home-made fruit smoothie is preferable to a coffee gulped down on the go. The same applies to the evenings, where careful chopping, stirring and preparation of ingredients can help to relieve tension and create a little distance from life’s daily dramas.
When you prepare your own meals it’s easier to keep an eye on what you consume and avoid the hidden nasties in heavily processed foods. Home-cooked meals can be packed with fresh, wholesome ingredients to help maintain a healthy balanced diet for your body.