Not About Food

Cooking skills and talent


Not About Food 62

Cooking skills and talent

Janet A. Zimmerman | Jan 10, 2003 02:23 AM

Reading through the posts on the "cake mix" thread, I was struck by two seemingly contradictory opinions being expressed: one was that *anyone* can cook, given a well-written recipe and a little experience, and the other was that some people really can't cook, or at least they can't cook well.

It's a topic that interests me, and I'm wondering what people think about the question: Is the ability to cook well a skill that anyone with enough time and energy can acquire, or is it a talent that some people have and some people don't? Or some combination of the two?

I grew up cooking; my mother is a great cook and so was my grandmother. Because of that, I sort of assumed that everyone could cook, and I don't think I really understood how much knowledge I had acquired (or how much skill or talent I had, depending on your perspective) until I went to college and had several roommates who couldn't cook. One was simply inexperienced; given a simple recipe, she could come up with something edible if not spectacular. But the other was a phenomenally bad cook. Yet she really loved to cook, which was a very strange combination (oh, ask me about her spaghetti sauce). It was then that I realized that not everyone could do what came so easily to me.

And how about this phenomenon -- my mother has been making creamed onions for Thanksgiving dinner for lots of years. It's not one of those "Oh, I don't really have a recipe" sitautions either; she hauls out the recipe card every year and follows it. My sisters and I have the recipe (photocopied, even, so it's the exact recipe) and when Mom's not around, we make creamed onions for Thanksgiving. But they never turn out like hers. They're not awful; they're just not as good as hers. I mentioned that to my sister, thinking that I was just missing something, but she said the same thing. So this past Thanksgiving I watched my mother to see if I could figure it out. I can't. Hers are just better.

So I guess I'm of the opinion that with concentration and effort, most people can learn how to cook some things tolerably well (just like I think most people can do most things to some degree). But to excel, I do think more is involved. Interest, obviously, is part of it, but I really think that natural talent plays a big part.

But I'm curious about what eveyone else thinks.

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