0854: "Learning to Cook"

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synp
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby synp » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:48 am UTC

J L wrote:
synp wrote:It is referred to as the Fibonacci meal. Today's dinner is the sum of yesterday's leftovers and the day before's leftovers.


:lol: Let's just hope that as the day before yesterday's and so on leftovers approach critical age, their percentage of your total meal approaches medical insignificance.


The guy who tought me this said that today's dinner is the sum of yesterday's and the day before plus parsely, so it has a good excuse to be green.

Fougare
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Fougare » Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:36 am UTC

I used to cook when there was three "guys" in the house, my dad, roommate, and me. Since I learned to cook from my mom for a family of 4-5, I always made 6 "servings" and ended up having dinner and lunch for the three of us every day, for about 10-15 dollars a day, pretty good considering its essentially the equivalent of buying 6 "combo" meals at the local restaurant. Plus walking to the local farmer's market and discussing recipes with other fellow "cooks" is surprisingly fulfilling.

Now that its just me... I live of cold cut, pb & J, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Not fun to make a 6-serving meal and eat it for 4 days straight :/

Nonesuch
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Nonesuch » Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:56 pm UTC

fr00t wrote:I don't understand where the common misconception about buying ingredients being more expensive than food comes from. It's not even remotely true; in fact, by definition: restaurants typically price dishes by marking up the ingredient cost something like 300%. Obviously they are dealing with wholesale prices but it's still not even close.

The one complaint about cooking that is true is how much time it takes. If you consider it to be a chore, and it stresses you out (like my mom), then it probably isn't for you. It is a skill to be able to cook efficiently, that is, have good time management in the kitchen, make only the required amount of mess, and be able to consider these factors when you plan meals and purchase ingredients.

flowchart could read, "does it taste good?" -> "yes" -> "keep reasonable stock of fresh and ubiquitous ingredients, only buying obscure and expensive ones for special occasions" -> "cook"


Where the idea comes from is from people who don't cook much. If you don't cook much, you don't have a pantryful of general supplies ready to use. When you run across a recipe you want to try, you have to purchase all of that just to make one meal. If there are more than a couple of ingredients in the meal you want to make, the up-front cost is greater than getting that same sort of meal from a restaurant. I can order two medium two-topping pizzas from Domino's for $20 delivery (if I tip the driver almost $5; with that habit, our pizzas always arrive within 10 minutes). On the other hand, if I have to go buy 5lb of flour, 3lb of sugar, a box of salt, a 3-pack of yeast, a bottle of olive oil, a jar of pizza sauce, a bottle of oregano (this makes a world of difference), a bag of shredded cheese, a bag of pepperoni, two green bell peppers, and a can of olives, I'm going to be well over $20 for making two pizzas at home. After I've been making pizza and other things at home for a while, of course, I will already have many of those ingredients. It's gotten to the point where I just have to go buy the fresh bell peppers and a jar of pizza sauce if I want to do pizza--which, on its own, is far cheaper than $20. And if I were to go through all of my ingredients and figure out exactly how much each ingredient as I use it actually cost, it would still be cheaper. Before I got into a rhythm of "things we all like to eat that are fairly simple and cheap that share some ingredients with other things we both like to eat," we had a LOT of food waste, a LOT of overspending, and it was looking pretty bad.

My main frustration now is the time commitment. If I cook, there's nothing that takes me less than half an hour of in-kitchen time to prepare. Most of the meals I cook take me over an hour in the kitchen. And afterwards, with no dishwasher, there's always at least half an hour of dish-washing involved. With working and night classes, sometimes I just get to the end of the day and really don't want to even set foot in the kitchen. I know someone earlier in the thread was saying how it's only "leisure time" that cooking cuts into, but plenty of times I still have homework after I'm done cooking, and more often than not it's time to go to bed and I still have to do the dishes. It can be really exhausting right now. The only reason I cook so much now is to save money. I aim for leftovers because I can't afford two or more hours of kitchen time per night.

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FrobozzWizard
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby FrobozzWizard » Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:46 pm UTC

Man, a lot of folks who are anti-cooking are doing much more work than they need to when they try to cook. The simplest stuff to make (pasta, rice and beans, stir fries, scrambled eggs, etc) take maybe 20-30 minutes, and most of that time is of the "relax for a while, go back and check on it every 5 minutes" variety, or even the "put in microwave, do something else for 5 minutes" variety.

That said, being able to cook well is something I owe my dad, since he started me off with some of the basic skills like boiling water, stirring pots, and so on when I was tall enough to reach the top of the stove while standing on a chair. As soon as my folks trusted me with a knife they also got me cutting up vegetables and the like, so that I don't have to think too much about how to cut an onion.

I'm not sure about whether this is absolutely the best use of my time, but I can be darn sure that I eat cheaply, enjoyably, and generally sooner than if I had called for a pizza.

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Kizyr
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Kizyr » Wed Feb 02, 2011 6:51 pm UTC

Xentropy wrote:Personally, it isn't the cooking I hate. I actually LOVE to cook. It's the cleanup I can't stand. Someone else does the dishes when I eat out, or in the case of takeout I just toss the disposable container. Worse for the environment, but it saves me from my least favorite thing to do--washing pots and pans. Please, someone tell me how to "discover a love of doing dishes" and I'll give it my best shot.

Bluetooth headset and talking on the phone.

Honestly, my time spent washing dishes is also my time spent talking with my mother, sister, girlfriend, and father, and sometimes other friends/cousins I haven't spoken to in a while. All of them live in other states (er, well, my sister now is local, but I still talk to her a bunch) and washing dishes doesn't require so much concentration that I can't have a good conversation simultaneously.

It hasn't gotten me to love doing dishes, but it does make them relatively painless. When I started doing that, I was ok with cooking more often, making bigger dishes (my usual m.o. is to make a lot on Sunday and Wednesday and reheat it the rest of the week), and so on, since the cleanup wasn't a big deal any more.

By the way, I'm in the same situation in that I live by myself and I have no dishwasher. KF
~Kizyr
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scharb
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby scharb » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:46 am UTC

Nonesuch wrote:
fr00t wrote:I don't understand where the common misconception about buying ingredients being more expensive than food comes from. It's not even remotely true; in fact, by definition: restaurants typically price dishes by marking up the ingredient cost something like 300%. Obviously they are dealing with wholesale prices but it's still not even close.

The one complaint about cooking that is true is how much time it takes. If you consider it to be a chore, and it stresses you out (like my mom), then it probably isn't for you. It is a skill to be able to cook efficiently, that is, have good time management in the kitchen, make only the required amount of mess, and be able to consider these factors when you plan meals and purchase ingredients.

flowchart could read, "does it taste good?" -> "yes" -> "keep reasonable stock of fresh and ubiquitous ingredients, only buying obscure and expensive ones for special occasions" -> "cook"


Where the idea comes from is from people who don't cook much. If you don't cook much, you don't have a pantryful of general supplies ready to use. When you run across a recipe you want to try, you have to purchase all of that just to make one meal. If there are more than a couple of ingredients in the meal you want to make, the up-front cost is greater than getting that same sort of meal from a restaurant. I can order two medium two-topping pizzas from Domino's for $20 delivery (if I tip the driver almost $5; with that habit, our pizzas always arrive within 10 minutes). On the other hand, if I have to go buy 5lb of flour, 3lb of sugar, a box of salt, a 3-pack of yeast, a bottle of olive oil, a jar of pizza sauce, a bottle of oregano (this makes a world of difference), a bag of shredded cheese, a bag of pepperoni, two green bell peppers, and a can of olives, I'm going to be well over $20 for making two pizzas at home. After I've been making pizza and other things at home for a while, of course, I will already have many of those ingredients. It's gotten to the point where I just have to go buy the fresh bell peppers and a jar of pizza sauce if I want to do pizza--which, on its own, is far cheaper than $20. And if I were to go through all of my ingredients and figure out exactly how much each ingredient as I use it actually cost, it would still be cheaper. Before I got into a rhythm of "things we all like to eat that are fairly simple and cheap that share some ingredients with other things we both like to eat," we had a LOT of food waste, a LOT of overspending, and it was looking pretty bad.

My main frustration now is the time commitment. If I cook, there's nothing that takes me less than half an hour of in-kitchen time to prepare. Most of the meals I cook take me over an hour in the kitchen. And afterwards, with no dishwasher, there's always at least half an hour of dish-washing involved. With working and night classes, sometimes I just get to the end of the day and really don't want to even set foot in the kitchen. I know someone earlier in the thread was saying how it's only "leisure time" that cooking cuts into, but plenty of times I still have homework after I'm done cooking, and more often than not it's time to go to bed and I still have to do the dishes. It can be really exhausting right now. The only reason I cook so much now is to save money. I aim for leftovers because I can't afford two or more hours of kitchen time per night.


Thank you. I was waiting for someone to mention how cooking saves money only in the long run, by buying in bulk.

The best way to save money is by making everything from scratch.

I just made a pizza. Here's how much in ingredients I spent, as a fraction of the original cost.

Spoiler:
Flour (3lb) - $1.80
Water (1 cup) ~$0.00
Salt (teaspoon) ~$0.00
Olive Oil (1.5 oz) - $0.26
TOTAL= ~$2.06

Canned Tomatoes (28 oz) - $5.00
Small Onion (1 ct) ~ $0.50
Olive Oil (1.5 oz) - $0.26
TOTAL = ~$5.76

I made these simultaneously in fifteen minutes, it cooked in ten. Cleanup took me another five. (food processor bowl, pan, pizza sheet) I'll have leftover sauce, which I'll use on $0.50 worth of pasta tomorrow. Three pizzas and tomorrow's lunch for less than $10, in under half an hour. I'd recommend learning how to cook to anyone. I'm going to be saving ludicrous amounts of money my whole life.

For dishwashing, I recommend a dishwashing brush. The leverage makes the process less unpleasant, difficult, and time consuming. Also, do it while listening to music or having a conversation. And if you're waiting for something to cook, that's a great time to clean the dishes you've used.

koipen
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby koipen » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:56 pm UTC

scharb wrote:]Flour (3lb) - $1.80
Water (1 cup) ~$0.00
Salt (teaspoon) ~$0.00
Olive Oil (1.5 oz) - $0.26
TOTAL= ~$2.06

Canned Tomatoes (28 oz) - $5.00
Small Onion (1 ct) ~ $0.50
Olive Oil (1.5 oz) - $0.26
TOTAL = ~$5.76[/spoiler]
I made these simultaneously in fifteen minutes, it cooked in ten. Cleanup took me another five. (food processor bowl, pan, pizza sheet) I'll have leftover sauce, which I'll use on $0.50 worth of pasta tomorrow. Three pizzas and tomorrow's lunch for less than $10, in under half an hour. I'd recommend learning how to cook to anyone. I'm going to be saving ludicrous amounts of money my whole life.


That is very strange pizza recipe. You don't let it gain air? For me it's 15 minutes of mixing and pluoghing the dough with hands, let it raise for 1 hour, plough all air out, shape pizzas for 20 minutes, half and hour for raising, 20 minutes for filling, 15 minutes in oven, 10 minutes for cleanup (dishwasher), 10 minutes for getting it served. In total that is 65 minutes for active work, 105 minutes for passive, and almost 3 hours in total.

But time isn't such a big factor anyway.

Kizor
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Kizor » Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:54 am UTC

I get why people shouldn't cook due to opportunity costs, the lack of a freezer, or ADHD. For others...

Plasma Mongoose wrote:It's basic chemistry where you eat the results.


This. Cooking simple meals is a matter of closely following algorithms. It may become more of an art form later on, but your basic soups, casseroles and risottos give good results when prepared mechanically. When I was starting out, when a recipe called for seven centimeters of leek, I'd fetch a ruler...

Perhaps my perspective is skewed. Two semesters of home ec were mandatory in my middle school, and focused almost entirely on cooking. Is there a similar thing in the States? Do people make it to adulthood without a grasp of what potatoes and pasta are like when they're ready?

scarletmanuka
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby scarletmanuka » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:10 am UTC

Personally, I don't really mind cooking, but I don't particularly like it, either; it's just something that has to be done. And I do particularly hate doing the dishes :)

My main difficulty is that we have three children, and they're all more or less fussy eaters, and their tastes don't agree. There are very few meals I can make which everyone will actually eat, and it can take up to half an hour just to negotiate something that's acceptable to the majority. In addition, if it takes me more than an hour or so after I get home (~7pm) to get dinner ready, there's a decent chance that at least one of them will have fallen asleep. When that happens, they're almost always out for the night; it's rare that I can wake them up enough to eat. Cooking in the evenings is pretty much solely my responsibility, if only because my wife doesn't want to do it. So it's a perpetual chore, and a frustrating one at that - especially on the nights where I'm cooking three or four different things because nobody can agree about what to eat - and it involves a lot of work.

A typical home-cooked dinner for the five of us usually runs around $15-20 (Australian) in ingredients, depending on what I'm making, and at least half of the time at least one of the kids won't eat any substantial amount. The cheapest takeaway is Domino's (pickup, not delivery; it's a five minute walk from my house), where for $25 I can get enough pizza for dinner and leftovers for the next day's lunch; we usually do this on a Tuesday night, and the kids take leftover pizza for lunch on Wednesday, because the school canteen isn't open on Wednesdays. Most other takeaway options run around $30-35. But buying takeaway saves me about 2 hours of work and the kids usually eat it. For $15, that's worth it to me as long as we don't do it all the time. We usually get takeaway around 3 times a week. Yes, it'd be nice if we could cut that down, but it'd also be nice if someone other than me was willing to do the work.

That's all somewhat tangential to the main point though. Everyone should still be able to cook a decent meal. No matter how often you choose to use it, it's a skill you should have.

dorus
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby dorus » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:34 am UTC

nowhereman wrote:I must at this moment thank my parents. They not only taught me to coo, but allowed me to experiment enough that I can now cook meals that Julia Child would... well not be totally ashamed of :)


Yup. Exactly this. :lol:

Daggoth
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Daggoth » Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:51 am UTC

Pasta, Rice and Lentils, the holy trinity.
These 3 foods are amazingly popular amongst the people who cook for themselves, most food guides out there even consider them staples.
I'll point out the qualities that set them above other choices in food making.
Shelf life
Though YMMV, the holy trinity has a shelf life that is measured in months, meaning that you dont have to worry about it going bad anytime soon. (With optimal storage conditions it reaches several years)
Low cost and availability
Even when most food prices vary seasonally and regionally, the holy trinity or at least one of its components will most likely be cheap and easy to obtain. They get even cheaper if you buy in bulk, which combined with the long shelf life, can mean a significant reduction in food expense.
Variety
There are several types of pasta, rice and lentils
Versatility
Theres tons of different recipies for the components of the trinity, so combined with the variety advantage, this means you dont have to eat the same thing every day.
Simplicity
As easy as putting water into a container, placing it on the stove, and setting a timer for it.
Nutritional Value
Loaded with useful nutrients and energy, all three of its components are low in saturated fats and sodium.


A final note: Flavor
I left this as a final note because it mostly depends on your skill and recipy, but as others have stated, practice means you gradually improve the flavor of your meals, and you are your own judge, so it always " moves " in the direction which you desire.

Sofie
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Sofie » Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:22 pm UTC

Nonesuch wrote:I'd be willing to bet that the local communities raise those chickens and sell them at local markets. There are laws in place about raising food animals like that within city limits in most urban centers of the United States. We generally have to find our chicken at the grocery store.

I'm not sure what qualifies as a food desert, but I know that when I go to buy fresh produce, there's a chance it's moldy on the shelves at the store. Root veg often molds within two days of bringing it home. You buy a 5lb bag of potatoes today, you'd better be cooking up five pounds of potatoes tonight. Things last a little longer in the wintertime, but we're the end of the road for most of the produce trucks. All the folk in this thread who are talking about amazing things like farmers' markets, non-chain grocers, specialized delis, I'm so very jealous. Where we live, nobody wants to open up specialized food stores. There are too many impoverished, transient people here to have the money to support such businesses--and those who actually make a decent salary in the city will do their shopping up to an hour and a half away. Most of the locals are content to get their grocery shopping done at the Walmart.

I'm just glad I found a butcher (took me over a year of living here to locate him), because Walmart meat has yet to convince me that it's actually made of meat.

That's scary. But you can still grow some vegetables in the windows, right?

And since we're talking nutrition, saturated fats aren't bad. Just look at the two graphs, and it seems pretty absurd:
ImageImage

philip1201
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby philip1201 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:21 pm UTC

^ I don't see how the second graph supports that model. More and more people become overweight, but the people in some limited range (between normal and obese) stay the same while the people in an unlimited range (obese and up) increase. That doesn't mean people suddenly become obese without becoming fat, just that the amount of people becoming overweight and the amount of people becoming obese are the same with these definitions of an excess body mass. Come to think of it, I don't see how the first one supports it either. Saturated-fat-caused arterial ailments are a more common cause of death than cancer. Even if the amount of fat intake has not increased, our average physical activity has decreased and our chance of dying of other causes drastically decreased. As such, saturated fats are now the worst thing. Not because it's become worse, but because everything else has become better. Boom de yada.

Siirenias
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby Siirenias » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:26 pm UTC

Why, yes. I am indeed resurrecting a thread that by all rights ought to stay on page number umpteen.

However, I was unable to find much mention of my own techniques.

I found out how to cook, and do it pretty well, but my recipes are optimum on the larger scale. Well, this is a problem since I usually can make it through a month without finishing my leftovers.

My solution was to package my leftovers in quart ziplocks and freeze them for convenient "you know, I could really go for" or "oops, I forgot to go shopping ALL MONTH!" scenarios. This tends to do best with curries and sauces; just leave the very starch in the pantry and cook up a bed of rice or a package of pasta while thawing out the frozen quart of goodness.

Done optimally, this is a lot cheaper than eating out if you work from home or end up there for meal times, seeing as you will save gas and your freezer's going to be on anyway. I'm picky though, and like to buy flavor enhancing ingredients (fresh herbs, good wine to cook with) and it comes closer to parity with the price of eating out for 50-75% of meals. That's okay, though. Portion control and eating *just* what you want with all the daily recommended vitamins and minerals is easier when you put them there yourself.

(Note: I've tried supplementing my meals with actual supplements. Beyond flax seed oil, don't make my mistake.)

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dan_dassow
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Re: 0854: "Learning to Cook"

Postby dan_dassow » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:30 pm UTC

Siirenias wrote:Why, yes. I am indeed resurrecting a thread that by all rights ought to stay on page number umpteen.

However, I was unable to find much mention of my own techniques.

I found out how to cook, and do it pretty well, but my recipes are optimum on the larger scale. Well, this is a problem since I usually can make it through a month without finishing my leftovers.

My solution was to package my leftovers in quart ziplocks and freeze them for convenient "you know, I could really go for" or "oops, I forgot to go shopping ALL MONTH!" scenarios. This tends to do best with curries and sauces; just leave the very starch in the pantry and cook up a bed of rice or a package of pasta while thawing out the frozen quart of goodness.

Done optimally, this is a lot cheaper than eating out if you work from home or end up there for meal times, seeing as you will save gas and your freezer's going to be on anyway. I'm picky though, and like to buy flavor enhancing ingredients (fresh herbs, good wine to cook with) and it comes closer to parity with the price of eating out for 50-75% of meals. That's okay, though. Portion control and eating *just* what you want with all the daily recommended vitamins and minerals is easier when you put them there yourself.

(Note: I've tried supplementing my meals with actual supplements. Beyond flax seed oil, don't make my mistake.)

I am also surprised that no one else has mentioned this before. Not only does this work well for people living alone, but for couples and families on a budget. One can buy fruits, vegetables and other perishable foods when they are in season or on special.


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