The Enthusiast: How to Be a Better Home Cook

New Year's Ham Dinner Menu from The Rock Recipes Christmas Cookbook
It being the holiday season, you’re probably going to be spending more time in the kitchen, either cooking, baking, or just taking up space. It’s a good time to familiarize yourself with a potential life-long skill, hobby, and creative pursuit.

It being the holiday season, you’re probably going to be spending more time in the kitchen, either cooking, baking, or just taking up space. It’s a good time to familiarize yourself with a potential life-long skill, hobby, and creative pursuit.

Barry Parsons is one of the province’s best known home cooks. On his blog, Rock Recipes, Parsons promises “real food recipes for real people,” with over 1600 recipes, featuring his own photography. The site has spawned three best-selling cookbooks from Breakwater Books.

“I started cooking at a very young age, probably 10 or 12, beside my mother in the kitchen, says Parsons. “I was quite a finicky eater as a child, but getting involved in helping cook meals for our family of eight helped me take some control over what was being prepared.”

“That’s why I love seeing kids in the kitchen with their parents these days,” says Parsons. “Not only does it teach a life-long skill, but it encourages teaching moments for nutrition, home economics, time management, and more. Through giving children a little more autonomy in making good food choices, you might just find they get far more adventurous in their taste preferences. It sure did work, in my case.”

For new cooks, Parsons recommends sticking with recipes that come under the banner of “quick & easy,” rather than ambitious tests of culinary might.

“There’s a lot to be said for early successes,” says Parsons. “They really do encourage you to move on to more complex dishes. Take your time moving forward toward those dishes, though, and don’t let one frustrating recipe set you back. As long as you are enjoying the process, you are on the right track.”

Like many avid cooks, Parsons has long recognized the therapeutic power of time spent in the kitchen. Many have touted the therapeutic benefits of cooking, as it’s a hobby that’s nourishing, centering, and creative.

“Simple baking recipes are also very gratifying,” says Parsons. “My blog’s simple one bowl chocolate cake [Chocolate Fudge Cake with Easy Fudge Frosting] is a great example. All ingredients go in, mix and bake …boom, chocolate cake! What’s not to love about that?”

Kitchen gadgets and accoutrement are popular gifts at Christmas, particularly for budding chefs. For Parsons, top of the list for those wanting to get into cooking is a quality chef’s knife.

“I can make do with lots of less-than-stellar equipment in the kitchen,” says Parsons. “I can adjust cooking time and temperature to allow for cheap cookware or hand-whisk cream if no electric mixer is available, but I draw the line at dull, cheap knives.

“They don’t have to be spectacularly expensive, but they do have to keep a sharp edge, have a comfortable weight for you, be well-balance,d and be of a good size. An 8 or 10 inch chef’s knife is an absolute necessity for any kitchen. Start there and build a collection as you hone your cooking skills.”

Find Rock Recipes at rockrecipes.com

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