How To.... Basic Methods and Techniques for the Home Cook

There are certain basic things that every young cook needs to learn in order to become a good cook.  As a young wife, I remember phoning my Mom and asking:

“How do you make homemade soup?”, or

“How do you make homemade bread?”, or things like

“How do you get your biscuits to be so tender and flakey?”

Mom always came through and explained the process or the technique, and I would scribble her instructions down on a scrap of paper, which would go into the envelope where I kept recipes torn out of magazines, or begged from friends or written down from a television cooking show.  I was determined to learn how to be a good cook, which I thought was simply having a collection of good recipes.  I asked everyone I knew for recipes: friends, relatives, acquaintances; pretty much anyone who made something that I liked, I would search them down and ask them for their recipe.

But I gradually came to understand that being a good cook was more than just following a recipe.  Yes, if you can follow a recipe, you can make a pan of brownies, or a bunch of cookies.  But I found that sometimes, even though I followed the recipe carefully, my cooking would be a flop.  Why?  Because the recipe is only part of the equation.  How you put those ingredients together, your technique is the other part.  This is the “How To” part of cooking.

Eventually, my Mom bought a cookbook for me.  Not just any cookbook, but one that explained the how to’s really well, with pictures and instructions at the beginning of almost every section.   It was written by Purity Flour.  (I don’t think they are even in business anymore).  You have to remember that this was 1972.  The internet didn’t exist, and cookbooks didn’t usually contain pictures.  So this book was invaluable to me.  It became my go-to reference on cooking almost everything, and I still think of my Mom every time I use it.

This was way before the age of the internet, where now we can find step by step videos on almost anything we want to do.  I think it’s great now, since anyone with the desire to learn how to cook something, CAN learn.  In my day, I read and re-read my book, and studied the pictures until I felt comfortable with the steps of making whatever it was I wanted to make; then, and only then, I would go ahead and turn to the recipe and start cooking.

I would like to put sections in my site that serve the same purpose as those black and white pages in my first cookbook did.  Only in more detail, and including the questions that I always wanted answered, addressing some of the science of cooking.  Once you know why, for example, you put salt in fudge and icing, you won’t ever make a beginner’s mistake like leaving it out.  Or, if your butter icing tastes just too sweet, you will remember that you can cut that sweetness a bit by adding salt.  (Yep, that’s the reason why you add salt to fudge and icing.)

Now I would like to pass on some of my knowledge in the same way.  Below is a list of the instructional posts that are here.  I continue to add more content, so check back often.  And if there is something you would like to see here, please suggest it and I will see what I can do.