Learning to cook and make cocktails is a funny process. We read cookbooks, we watch TV shows, maybe we try a recipe or two from whatyouth.com. For the most part, we get set up with a list of instructions, and we’re expected to follow it closely or else it will be ruined. That’s a process that’s totally contrary to how we all learned to skate or surf or do the stuff we’re into. Imagine if you learned to skate or surf that way, each day studying a book or video on how to do bottom turns or whatever. That would be weird. And sad. No, most of us see something we like, get inspired and/or psyched, and go have some fun trying.
So that’s why, even though I’ve been writing weekly recipes for What Youth, recipes are not my thing. It’s all very exact. The measuring, the planning, the details. Then there’s this new paint-by-numbers but for cooking thing IKEA is doing, which as a byproduct takes out all the creativity and makes you a cooking robot. Sure, I read recipes and I write them, but that’s just not how most of us cook. Instead of dealing with teaspoons and specifics, most people cook with a splash of this, a dab of that. That’s what makes it fun instead of a job. Once we get a feel for how to move in the kitchen, we cook with our gut.
Like music and painting, cooking is an art form. And while Juilliard is great for those pursuing a music career and RISD is great for those pursuing fine art, most of us don’t need a culinary school level of expertise to get by on a day-to-day basis.
We’re not trying to open some fine French fusion restaurant here. So why are we treating learning to cook like we are? We’re just trying to eat awesome food. Maybe learn something new. Or maybe even impress a girl.
As much as I believe in following the rules before you can break them, I also believe in just going for it. As Seth Godin notes, “Pablo Picasso painted 10,000 paintings, only a hundred of them are amazing, fifty changed the world, which means he failed 9,900 times.” Wrap your head around that. He failed and failed and failed but sprinkled in there was brilliance. If that whole notion intrigues or semi-motivates you, listen to this.
Have you failed? Try with cooking. Or cocktail making. It might be good, it might be gross, either way you’re giving it a go. At 12, I made scrambled eggs with a splash of vanilla. Yeah. “That’s interesting,” mom said. It wasn’t. But I tried, sans recipe, and that’s better than not trying at all.
As the food and drink recipes continue at whatyouth.com, I hope you follow some, but even more so I hope you use them as a jump off point, as inspiration to try some things on your own. Rip into it. Try, fail, and try again. It’s only dinner and drinks. —Paul Brewer