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confidence to cook

This blog post started with my big bowl of muesli this morning. (No picture, sorry, ate it up before I realized that I would write about it!) I was sitting in my bed, outside my window a grey and rainy morning, the light on my bedside table on. Cuddled up in my blanket, it felt like autumn arriving. I felt quite happy sitting inside, enjoying my breakfast, tasting almonds and cardamom. I focused on the flavour. I could taste the small spoon full of peanut butter that I added, too. It was so yummy!

It was definitely the variety of ingredients, that made it so yummy and satisfying, the mix of seeds, fruit and spices, enough water and non-dairy milk.

A few years ago I wouldn’t have even thought about mixing so many things together. I wouldn’t have seen the point: “Does it really taste better just because I add in a few more things? – No.” Today I say to myself: “Yes, it definitely does!” Adding a few more ingredients, putting a dash of cinnamon or a hint of cardamom, make your brekkie or meal richer. Your food becomes more “dense”, often more nutritious and more intense in taste. It becomes juicier. Compared with my boring, dry gluten-free breakfasts in the beginning of my dietary change in 2012, this muesli is heaven!

This is the experience I have made on a general basis over the past few years: You CAN create really yummy and healthy food. Food that satisfies you. Food that includes what you need or excludes what you don’t want. Food that is gluten-, dairy-, yeast-, egg- and whatever-free. You won’t miss a thing! Bu-u-ut—you have to get there…

I, for example, was completely unable to cope with the new challenges of not eating any gluten, dairy and eggs anymore (to name just a few things) at the beginning of my food journey. I was literally nibbling on raw buckwheat kernels. Looking back, I really wonder why I didn’t seek more inspiration from all the great food blogs out there, with their myriad of great, alternative recipes.

Maybe, however, you need a certain familiarity with food, before trying recipes that include more than three unknown ingredients. Maybe you first need kind of an access to food and cooking before you start experimenting and trying new things. I feel that back then I was lacking the routine to prepare good meals. I was not creative outside my well-known stack of foods and unable to exchange ingredients. In short: I was lacking the skills to go on that journey well prepared, and enjoying it.

Why is this so? Why are we so focused on the common, the usual when it comes to food? Why do we stick so badly to the exact measurements in recipes?

I wonder: Is it our busyness that made us forget how to cook and prepare food? Or is it the way we were taught growing up? Or is it even something deeper, something ingrained in society: Are we too detached from the things that nourish us, too detached from working with and using them?

Why, by all means, are we so hesitant when it comes to preparing food? What would happen if we allow us to throw a handful of basil into the pot instead of just a tablespoon full? Nothing would happen, except for a richer taste.

Cooking is so much about creativity and invention.

Recipes are great, because they inspire, give guidance and can help you get started. However, we should perceive them more often exactly as the former: as a form of inspiration and orientation, instead of something that can be done in only one way.

Once you have established a cooking routine, you get to the point where you start playing with flavours and ingredients. Where you start creating a dish in your mind and then try it out at the stove. Where you get a feeling of what goes well together, what might be a nice mix of taste. The point where you can easily exchange one ingredient for another, or just skip one, because you know that your dish will still taste good.

It took me quite a while before I was able to cook meals that are rich in flavour and taste. It took me a lot of practice. All the time, though, I had a very supporting partner at my side, helping me develop my skills. Now, it’s great to see the progress, to see the way I’ve come.

With the routine comes the creativity—and the confidence.

By now, most of the times I cook free-style, no recipe at hand, and I use the spices I feel like on that particular day. There are days on which I’m in the mood for the red brown masala, and there are days where I go for the yellow curry mix in combination with some extra ground coriander. Some days I add chili or turmeric. I cook what I feel like.

For me, it turns out to be one of the coolest things I have achieved: Cooking and being able to improvise where I like to or where I need to. Today I am much more confident when it comes to food. I’m not confined to a set of ingredients or measuring tools. I use my senses and my common sense. I listen to my body.

I love curries and usually think something up using what I have in the fridge, spices along the mood of the day. A recent very nice inspiration and welcome twist was the Spicy Red Lentil Curry by the Minimalistbaker. Love this red colour! I went for an all vegan home-made curry paste, by the way. Try this recipe, it’s YUMMY.

Feel and taste what you are preparing. Do it!

Are you a free-style cook, a recipe lover, a recent cooking-addict? Share your thoughts and creations!

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