How and Why You Should Learn to Cook

Why learn to cook?

In some cultures, cooking is an essential life skill that is often passed down through generations, and many young people learn how to cook at a relatively early age. This used to be the rule in America, but since the 1970’s home cooking has declined and became even less common as children didn’t learn the essentials at a young age.

Growing up in households where parents cook

regularly can encourage children to learn by observing and assisting. In the 1950-60s I learned basic cooking skills such as frying, broiling, and baking from my mother. I then learned how to cook basic dishes such as soups, stews, pies & breads. A few years later, we underpaid grad students learned from others how to cook economical meals from other cultures including Chinese and Indian cuisines. Later, I lived for several years in a group house in Portland with 6-8 other science techs, med students & nursing students. As no one else wanted to cook, I got to experiment, especially with vegetarian dishes as our incomes were tiny.   

In today’s fast-paced world,

 many people rely on convenience foods, but there’s a growing appreciation for the art of cooking and its benefits. Learning to cook empowers you to take charge of your health, embrace creativity in the kitchen, and foster meaningful connections with others through shared meals.

Anchovy and olive pizza for lunch in a French bistro in Chatel, France.

So, whether you’re a complete beginner or someone with some cooking experience, it’s never too late to start learning and enjoying the art of cooking.

Learning to cook today is a valuable and rewarding skill for several reasons:

Healthier Choices: Cooking your meals allows you to control the ingredients, portion sizes, and cooking methods, which can lead to healthier eating habits. You can choose fresh, nutritious ingredients and avoid excessive fats, sugars, and additives commonly found in processed foods.

Layers of fresh bell peppers and chiles,Mexico City,Mexico
Piles of hot peppers and onions displayed at the weekly market n Ankadeli, Orissa in India

Cost Savings: Preparing meals at home is often more cost-effective than dining out or buying ready-made meals. Buying ingredients in bulk and cooking in batches saves  money. War ehouse stores like Costco are easily worth the member fees.

Creativity and Exploration: Cooking is an art form that allows you to be creative in the kitchen. You can experiment with various flavors, cuisines, and cooking techniques, expanding your palate and culinary horizons.

Eggplant with Yu Xiang Sauce – Fried Eggplant, with strips of lamb and onion stir-fried with ginger and garlic in a Chinese wok. Garnished with mint and parsley
chef tossing stir fry vegetables in a large wok over a gas stove

Bonding and Sharing: Cooking for family and friends is an excellent way to bond and share quality time. Preparing a meal together can be a fun and enjoyable activity that brings people closer.

Self-Sufficiency: Knowing how to cook means you’re less reliant on takeout or processed foods, especially during emergencies or situations where access to restaurants may be limited.

Impress Others: Being a good cook can earn you admiration from friends and loved ones. Hosting a dinner party and serving a delicious homemade meal is a fantastic way to impress guests.

Cultural Understanding: Cooking and trying recipes from different cultures can help you better understand and appreciate diverse cuisines and traditions.

Sustainability: Cooking at home can contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. You can reduce food waste by using leftovers creatively and choosing locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Mindfulness and Relaxation: Cooking can be a meditative and relaxing activity. Focusing on the process of preparing a meal can help reduce stress and improve mindfulness.

Independence: Knowing how to cook gives you greater independence in managing your diet and culinary preferences. You can customize recipes to suit your dietary needs and preferences.

Life Skill: Cooking is a fundamental life skill that everyone can benefit from, regardless of age or background. It ensures you can care for yourself and your loved ones in a fundamental way.

How to learn to cook

OK, you’re convinced you’d like to learn how to cook. How do you get started?

.Here are some steps and tips to help you get started:

Start with Simple Recipes: Begin with easy recipes that have few ingredients and straightforward instructions. Look for beginner-friendly recipes online or in beginner cookbooks. Gradually, you can move on to more complex dishes as you gain confidence.

Piles of hot peppers and onions displayed at the weekly market in Ankadeli, Orissa in India on 12 Nov 2009

Gather Basic Kitchen Tools: Equip your kitchen with essential tools like a chef’s knife, cutting board, pots, pans, measuring cups, and utensils. You don’t need a fully stocked kitchen to get started; focus on the basics first.

Follow Video Tutorials: Watching video tutorials can be an excellent way to see the cooking process in action. Many online platforms, like YouTube, have a wide range of beginner-friendly cooking videos.

Take a Cooking Class: Consider signing up for a beginner’s cooking class in your local area or online. Co-operatives usually have great courses with experienced leaders. Cooking classes can be a great hands-on way to learn the basics and interact with instructors and fellow learners.

photorealistic closeup of chef flipping an omelet over a gas flame
photorealistic closeup of chef flipping an omelet over a gas flame

Learn Basic Techniques: Focus on fundamental cooking techniques like chopping, sautéing, boiling, and baking. Mastering these techniques will provide a strong foundation for more complex recipes.

Read and Understand Recipes: Take your time to read recipes thoroughly before you start cooking. Understand the ingredients, measurements, and steps involved in the process.

Practice and Experiment: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or experiment with different ingredients and flavors. Cooking is a creative process, and sometimes the best dishes come from trying something new.

Build Your Confidence: Don’t get discouraged if a dish doesn’t turn out perfectly at first. Learning to cook takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself and keep trying.

Cook Regularly: The more you cook, the more comfortable you’ll become in the kitchen. Try to cook regularly, even if it’s just simple meals or snacks.

Learn from Others: Seek advice and cooking tips from friends, family, or online cooking communities. Many experienced cooks are happy to share their knowledge and insights.

Keep it Fun: Cooking should be an enjoyable experience, so have fun and enjoy the process of creating delicious meals.

Remember, cooking is a skill that improves with practice. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and techniques, and don’t be discouraged by initial challenges. Embrace the learning process, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress from being an absolute beginner to a confident cook.

Afiyet Olsen

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By Cascoly

I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us