How Do You Get Really Good at Cooking?

As you probably know if you read this newsletter even just occasionally, I often like to use emails from readers as the basis for whatever I write here. It’s satisfying to feel, at least in some small way, that this is a real conversation. And I got a note the other day that I absolutely love, and that frames in a lovely way a question I get asked constantly: How do I get really good at cooking? Here’s the email:

Subject: how do I develop nonna skills?

This is a question that plagues me regularly, as I get inspired by your newsletter, or Canal House Cooks Lunch, or any of the other amazing resources out there - how do I actually get really good at cooking? I enjoy cooking, and feel quite competent at it, but I find myself cooking in a kind of haphazard way, selecting recipes at random based on what looks good, and putting together bits and bobs from my kitchen when not using a recipe. This method leaves me feeling fairly skilled overall, but always like something is missing, or like there are many intuitive gaps I'm not filling. My mom is an incredible Pakistani home cook, and she just knows how to do it, whereas I still look up the proportions for basmati rice to water every time, and 50% of the time it's not quuuuite right (of course, I was not expected to cook for a family from the age of 19 - thank goodness). So my question is - what's the best way for me to really become an intuitive, natural cook? Should I pick a cuisine and focus on it for a while? Should I work through particular techniques in some kind of systematic way? Pick one cookbook? Help!

I thought it would be fun to forward this message to the rest of our team (Daniel, Kate and Kerri) and let us each take a crack. Our responses were not coordinated at all, though you’ll find plenty of common threads. Of course, when it comes to learning how to good like a nonna (AKA a grandma, or all-around natural, intuitive cook)—well, it’s not going to happen overnight. But there are valuable kernels in all of the “answers” (compiled into one article below), and some heartwarming grandma nostalgia for good measure. Hope you find it useful, or at the very least, enjoyable. Have a great weekend, and see you Tuesday.

— Mark

When a reader asked us "how do you become really good at cooking?" (AKA how to develop "nonna skills"), we couldn't resist the temptation to each take a crack at the "answer."


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.