Everything I Need To Know I Learned In The Kitchen
You all know that expression (originally a book): "Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten." Indulge me as I tweak that to apply to the kitchen.
Well, maybe I didn't learn everything essential there — but the room known lovingly as the heart of the home surely is a powerhouse of lessons, if you open your mind to them.
Following are an even 10.
Patience. I'm a pretty patient person by nature — at least when it comes to tasks, if not so much to people behaving like idiots...or sluggish traffic lights. But in the kitchen, so many things simply cannot be rushed. Yeast dough rising, for example. Or that all-important melding of flavors in soups and stews.
That's why so many people shy away from the place — I have no time! they whine. But this is a big mistake. The busier you are, the more critical it is to find ways to slow down. Cooking will do that for you.
Precision. When you're baking, it really does matter if you drop one teaspoon or two of baking powder into the batter. But even the level of heat under your pot or the temperature of your oven can be critical as you sauté or roast. The discipline required to follow instructions to a T will serve anyone well.
The value of risk taking. At the same time, cooking and baking practically dare you to be creative, to color outside the lines. Feel like throwing a little hot sauce into the fruit salad dressing? Why not? Taking risks leads to confidence as you realize the world doesn't end if rosemary-flavored crème brûlée doesn't quite cut it.
Giving over receiving. Sure, it's lovely to have someone cook for you. But even better is the feeling you get when you're wearing the apron. This is true if the diner you make happy is a 5-year-old, your spouse or a roomful of homeless people at a shelter.
Accepting consequences. Cooking is messy. There will be dishes to clean, pots to scour, stove spills to wipe down. Life is messy that way, too. There's usually some kind of tedious cleanup or accounting required after every worthwhile endeavor.
Resourcefulness. Opportunities to nurture this quality abound, from making ingredient substitutions to punting when you don't have just the right gadget or figuring out a way to save a dish from ruin mid-recipe.
The rewards of planning. How calming and self-affirming it is to come home to the aroma of the night's dinner simmering in the crockpot. Or a container of ready-to-heat soup that you made over the weekend. You have every right to feel smug and in charge of your life.
Math is your friend. Can I bake this dish in an 8-inch square pan instead of a 9-inch round pan? Get out the calculator. Numbers don't lie. You can count on them in the way you can't always count on people.
Tolerance. Rare is the home where everyone likes the same foods. You love coconut, your eldest thinks of worms. You like steak rare, your spouse wants it well done. Or your teenager suddenly declares "no more meat for me!" Accommodating everyone's wishes at the table has broader life applications.
Teamwork. Too many cooks spoil the broth? Only if they can't get along. Find a way to make it work in the kitchen, and who knows? The secret to world peace may follow.