Rule № Ten
Educate Yourself About Food & Spices
If you took the time to read the previous chapters about appliances and kitchen utensils and felt a bit overwhelmed, be aware that your education has not even begun. As I have said previously, supermarkets are not my favorite place in the world. However, if you want to cook, and until this point you have little or no knowledge of the raw ingredients, you are going to have to begin somewhere.
Cooking is not only the "kitchen'. It requires a bit of planning - you may be surprised at how little - as well as understanding your local supermarket. You will need an education in spices and fresh food products. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. No, I do not mean that you should try and pick-up the woman standing next to you in the aisle by asking her for advice on what or how you should cook for the kids. (Okay, if you must try it, it is not such a bad pick-up line, but kind of overused. At least all the good-looking single women in my supermarket know that is "MY" line. Now, all they do is roll their eyes and say, "Not you again!") If you have local stores that cater to fresh spices it is not a bad idea to venture into one of them, without a camouflage outfit. Touch, feel and smell the spices and food. Get an idea what is good, what is tender, what is going to take a few hours and what will take a few minutes to prepare. Ask for advice from friends or if you can, from your ex (or from the lady in the aisle next to you). You will find that most people are really open about sharing recipes and secrets of the kitchen. They enjoy it.
Watch out for "over-exposure", which can swiftly take place in a large well-stocked supermarket. Let me give you an example. Suppose you want to buy orange juice. Well first you have to decide which brand you want to buy. Then you have to decide if you want fresh squeezed or made from concentrate. With pulp or without pulp? With vitamin C added or without? Over-exposure, pure and simple. What should be a quick choice in many areas, even in rice, becomes a ten minute internal battle:
"Should I take this one because it is more expensive and seems better, or that one because it is cheaper and has more in it? Should I buy the brand name or the no-name brand?"
Spices are, in their own way a bit more difficult to study, especially if you want to begin to learn about the more exotic ones. All spices used with caution can create a much better tasting plate. You will find yourself experimenting at the beginning trying to find just the right type, mix and amount.