There’s one simple technique you can use to make your cooking more delicious. It doesn’t involve using any new ingredients or special seasonings. You don’t need to cook anything particularly fancy, or what we might consider “guest” food or “family dinner” food. On many occasions, a simple microwaved quesadilla or a plate of graham crackers with a tall glass of milk will do the trick nicely. It’s mystifying to me that more people don’t do use this trick, so I’m going to assume that word hasn’t spread. Here’s how to get better at cooking.
How to Get Better at Cooking With One Simple Trick
Make the temperature of the food contrast with the temperature outside. You know how it’s blazing hot in the summer? Serve cold food. You know how it’s frigid AF in winter? Serve warm food.
This simple – sometimes instinctive – choice makes food immensely more satisfying. Suddenly, the food is woven into the whole fabric of your day. Not only does it balance your body’s internal temperature level, it also provides a pleasant contrast.
Bonus points of serving your contrasting food after a long day spent outside in whatever the temperature is out there.
If you only ever made one point of improvement to your cooking, this one rule would elevate how satisfying and pleasant the food you produce is tenfold.
Imagine sitting outside on a sweltering summer night, sipping cold Champagne and chewing on chilled fried chicken. Or imagine waking up on a frozen winter morning and shuffling into a kitchen where hot chocolate and a bowl of oatmeal waited for you.
This is the primary trick.
There’s another, very secondary trick, which is including food that is seasonal. By seasonal, I mean either that the food is harvested or slaughtered during that season (think tomatoes in summer or lamb during spring), or is simply culturally associated with that time of year (think Halloween chocolate).
Ideas for Autumn
A cup of tea. A warm croissant or two. Some berry compote put up during summer. This is the kind of meal we can throw together even when we’re depressed or distracted. Imagine eating this on a gray day when the clouds are piling up outside and pressing their wet faces on the window while drifts of damp, burnt-orange leaves shuffle down the gutters, flaming and half-decomposed.
Think of famous coffee beverages with pumpkin pie seasonings in them.
But you don’t have to stick to the seasonal. This would be a great time for a lasagna. A casserole. A warm rice salad. During autumn, warm things, creamy things, sauced things… those are the foods that hit the spot.
Autumn is the time during which we hunker down for a long winter.
Filling food, deliciously warm food, bowl food… these will all seem particularly perfect when the geese are flying south and the school year is settled into its rhythm.
One Halloween night, after I’d spent a long series of hours helping to haunt the trick or treaters in my back yard, I found myself eating cold tacos from Taco Bell.
They were the best tacos I’d ever even. I’ll never forget that moment – I was sitting by my blazing fire pit, surrounded by friends, my gruesome Halloween mask shoved up to the top of my head, inhaling tortillas and refried beans and sour cream, and I…
…I think I was as happy then as I have ever been.
And soon, winter comes. Hello, winter.
Ideas for Winter
Coffee on a winter’s morning is indispensable. Now let us sing.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things…
Think Brussels sprouts and winter greens. Think braises and root vegetables. Sage.
Winter is the time for comfort food. This is the time for ham, for pie, for mashed potatoes, for gravy, for mountains of French toast with extra butter.
Ideas for Spring
Peas. Strawberries. Garlic. Pan roasting lamb. Stir fries that throw tender vegetables and small pieces of meat over streaming rice. Some days are warm and full of sunshine. Others are throwbacks to winter, or perhaps stormy. The springtime kitchen is an agile kitchen, bouncing between the light and the fresh to the hearty and warm as needed.
Ideas for Summer
Late summer evening is my favorite time of year. After a day spent at the county fair, I love to sit outside, my bare feet on the still-warm sidewalk, tasting cotton candy and popcorn on the air, and eating a microwaved hot dog along with lemonade I made from lemon juice, sugar, and tap water.
This is my idea of heaven.
I was married on a hot summer day in early September. The reception? A potluck on the grassy grounds of the church. After many hours of formal reciptioning, I remember changing out of my wedding dress into a little pink dress, a thigh-skimming number, my hair still styled and my makeup still piled on.
I strolled around the tables as dusk deepened, hugging my friends and laughing.
If someone had pressed a cool glass of lemonade in my hand, I might just have burst from happiness.
Only moments later, my new husband and I got into our decorated Prius and drove away to start our honeymoon.
Summer forever, guys.
Here’s Your Homework
Sometime this week, consider the weather outside and make a meal that contrasts with it. This might be as simple as nuking a pizza pocket on a cold day or pulling some cold rotisserie chicken out of the fridge on a hot day. There’s no need to overthink this.
But if you feel like it, and you have the time and energy, adding a little seasonal touch sure doesn’t hurt.
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