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Bittman's 4 Stages of Learning to Cook

cowboyardee | Aug 13, 201302:00 AM

I saw a mention of this in another thread, looked it up, and found no chowhound discussion on the matter. Figured it might get some interesting responses.

The four stages:

"- First, you slavishly follow recipes; this is useful.
- In Stage two, you synthesize some of the recipes you've learned. You compare, for example, Marcella Hazan's pasta all’amatriciana with someone else's, and you pick and choose a bit. … You learn your preferences. You might, if you're dedicated, consult two, three, four cookbooks before you tackle anything.
- The third stage incorporates what you've learned with the preferences you've developed, what's become your repertoire, your style, and leads you to search out new things. What are the antecedents of pasta all’amatriciana? What's similar? … This is the stage at which many people bring cookbooks to bed, looking for links and inspiration; they don’t follow recipes quite as much, but sometimes begin pull ideas from a variety of sources and simply start cooking.
- Stage four is that of the mature cook, a person who consults cookbooks for fun or novelty but for the most part has both a fully developed repertoire and - far, far more importantly - the ability to start cooking with only an idea of what the final dish will look like. There's a pantry, there's a refrigerator, and there is a mind capable of combining ingredients from both to Make Dinner."

From his essay in “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families.”

So... thoughts?
Where are you on the continuum? Are there some big jumps in between some of these stages? Does this accurately describe how you learned to cook? Is there a better way to progress?

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