I offer you my list of what the kitchen is teaching me, which are all works-in-progress in my life. I think they can apply to anyone cooking for one to one hundred:
Wear good shoes. If you’re going to be standing there for more than an hour, it makes a world of difference.
Clean up as you go. You’ll be happier and feel less chaotic. And if you’re lucky enough to have someone who cleans up after dinner – they’ll be your biggest fan.
Cook slowly. Take the time to get your mise en place ready (French for “everything in place”). Rushing helps nothing in life. There are times that call for swift action but even these should not be done in a stressful frenzy. I don’t know about you, but I tend to do stupid things when I’m in a rush, like forgetting ingredients or slicing into my fingers. Setting myself up to be organized takes time, but it also frees me up for the spontaneous creativity that can occur when I’m in-the-moment with meal preparations.
If you are going to be cooking for a long period of time, be sure to nourish yourself at set times throughout the day. Tasting and checking for seasonings does not count and eating regular meals will help you be appropriately hungry and satisfied when it’s finally time to eat your handiwork.
Keep it simple. I asked several chefs for their advice before the summer started, and each said the same thing – “keep it simple!” Let the food speak for itself, using straightforward cooking methods. If you feel like gettin’ fancy, make it happen in your sauces and dressings.
Make as much as possible ahead of time. I think this is especially important when you are hosting a party. In the past I’ve been really good at trying to do everything myself, being too busy in the kitchen to welcome and mingle with my guests, and then too stressed to enjoy any of it. What’s the point?
Which is a great lead-in to…
…Ask for help when you need it. Learn to think in terms of your order of work and then delegate it to friends and family.
(Just kidding on that one. But someday I hope to own a pair. Until then I’m stuck with the bread-in-the-mouth, freezing the onions, and rubbing stainless steel options.)
Your turn! What has your kitchen taught you?