Cooking curiously

Cooking curiously

If you can read, you can cook.

“If you can read, you can cook.” 

 I didn’t know it then, but those 7 words became some the most impactful of my life. 

 As a child growing up in the 80s, the culinary landscape was much simpler than it is now, and food in general had a more utilitarian place in most people’s lives. That was the case for my household, where make-your-own-taco night was a smorgasbord of diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar, sour cream, hamburger meat cooked with “taco seasoning,” lettuce, and hard taco shells. 

 But my uncle was a more creative cook and I delighted in going to their house to see what he would create and what new flavors I could experience. Even though I had no sense that I wanted food to become a major part of my life, I was curious enough to ask him how he learned all this given I knew the exact family he came from and how they all cook and eat (read: simply and to stay alive).

 “If you can read, you can cook.” 

 I can’t remember how old I was when he told me this, but I remember the exact location - in the kitchen, close to the table, right when you walk in from the living room, but not the entrance to the kitchen from the back door. 

I looked out the window towards the pool when he told me this.

He was correct, of course. 

If you can read, you can cook. The way he said it, with such nonchalance, made me feel as though anything was possible for me in that department. Over the years, it’s morphed into a deep confidence in the kitchen for me. I am not formally trained and everything I know about cooking is due to observing the chefs and cooks at the all the restaurants I ever worked for, reading about both the history of certain dishes and the techniques required to prepare them, as well as the people pushing the boundaries of tradition to create wonderful new flavors. 




Of course, it’s not only that simple. One must also be curious, one must also want to create, one must thoughtfully taste, one must salt properly (please, oh please). But, it’s not that complicated at the end of the day. 

Cooking has become a core aspect of my personality. It’s how I see the world, how I understand people, how I learn, and how I believe in the unification of us all as humans. 

He gave me such a gift, and I never got to tell him. 

May you rest in peace, and tonight’s dinner is in your honor. 

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