Do you remember the first meal you ever cooked?
Maybe your scrambled eggs were tough and rubbery. Perhaps your pasta boiled out all over the stove top. You might still be scraping blackened bits off the skillet from that overstuffed grilled cheese. I’ve done those things, and more.
Plenty of times, I could have used a little guidance. A helping hand from someone who had been there, or who had the time to do the research I did not. Someone who wouldn’t roll their eyes at a basic question or assume I knew things I clearly didn’t.
At Voraciously, we want to be that someone for you. We know you would like to get into the kitchen more but may not know where to start, so let us lead the way. We’re going to focus on the essentials, the building-block skills and dishes that will allow you to create satisfying meals, zero intimidation.
I’m not sure I would have thought that possible the summer before my senior year of college, in my first kitchen, cooking my first “real” dinner from scratch.
A few days earlier, a flash flood had washed out my car engine, and as a thank-you to my friend for playing chauffeur while I ran errands, I offered to make him dinner. I settled on a stir-fry (So easy! Throw it all in a skillet!), and I collected vegetables, chicken and a bottle of peanut sauce at the grocery store. After minimal chopping, everything went into the pan. Where it stayed for a long time.
I cut my vegetables unevenly and left the pieces way too large. I had no idea how to make sure the chicken was cooked through. I probably had the heat too low on my stove top. Eventually, we had something to eat, and it was edible, if nothing else. My friend stuck around to the end.
And he still married me.
But even now, 14 years later, I have a lot to learn as an entirely self-taught cook. It’s been a fun, sometimes frustrating, always challenging journey through sliced fingers, burnt caramel and one flaming chicken.
We are here to help make sure those things don’t happen to you. We’re not only going to help you finish a dish disaster-free, we’re going to help make the end result tasty, fuss-free and even fast, with plenty of “aha moments,” too. Sure, there will be some hiccups along the way, but really, they’re part of the adventure — and make for a good story — when you’re finding your way as a home cook.
First, you’ll want to have the right ingredients on hand. Deputy Food editor and recipe editor Bonnie S. Benwick has created a basic but versatile pantry, and as part of her revamped weekly Dinner in Minutes recipe column, you can set up that pantry at home and then rest easy, knowing you can make simple, flavorful recipes that don’t require special trips to the store. Plus, you’ll free up even more time, because dinner will be on the table in a flash — always 40 minutes or less, and often much less.
That’s for your regular weeknight cooking. What about having friends over? If you’ve never quite felt ready for that, our new 12-week email newsletter series will get you there. Food blogger and cookbook author Jennifer Farley will walk you through the necessary techniques to build your confidence and repertoire, with a recipe accompanying each week’s skill. At the end of the series, she’ll share a full menu for the ultimate casual dinner party. (Yes, there’s such a thing!)
Along with our ever-reliable core of staffers and contributors to Washington Post Food, I’ll be offering how-tos, equipment and ingredient guides and other recipes you’ll actually be able to make. That includes essential dishes we think everyone should master, plus baking recipes that come together in one bowl. We’ll also highlight some of the best dishes to complement your new skills from the thousands of recipes in our archives.
Through it all, you can expect the same commitment to quality that has long been a staple of our food coverage. That means the recipes are tested and, of course, tasted. We’ll be sharing the wisdom we have gleaned from years of experience, and we’ll be turning to the experts who have even more. We’ll be placing a bigger emphasis on our real, 100-percent-undoctored (can I emphasize this enough?) food photography, adding step-by-step images to many recipes so cooking is as easy as following along. Videos? We’ll have those, too.
Don’t forget that we’ll be on this journey together, so we would love to hear what you want to know or what you’ve always wanted to accomplish. Tell us how things are going and how we can help. Email your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org), show us your successes and failures on Instagram (@eatvoraciously) and hit me up on Twitter (@BeckyKrystal).
We hope you enjoy this new endeavor as much as we’re enjoying putting it together. Because that’s what food — and cooking — is all about.
So come along. This is going to be fun.