Julia Child who says “never apologize” for a meal. Photo from: WikiMedia Commons
Cooking is different for everyone. You might be the type of person who can channel their inner Iron Chef to concoct all sorts of delicious meals, and that’s great. However, another person may find they are too busy or tired to plan, shop, and cook after a long day’s work. Different still is the person who likes to cook, but is frustrated that they have to fork over their hard earned money at a restaurant to get that genuine taste of their favorite meals.
The stomach wants what the stomach wants, so why not try to make your favorite restaurant meals at home? It’s much less expensive than dining out, and all you need are the right ingredients. Whether you’re a novice chef who’s specialty is “cereal a la milk” or you’ve been cooking for years now, it’s worth your time to develop a new skill set that could save you some dough.
Tiffany King, blogger, “eat at home cook”, and homeschooling mom of four children, explains the benefits of creating a restaurant style at home. She says it is because “you can splurge on special ingredients and still come under the amount you would need to spend to go out.”
Something else to consider is taking advantage of the comfort of your own home.
“Another plus is the relaxed atmosphere,” say King. “Especially if you are eating with young children, keeping them occupied in a restaurant is a challenge. At home, they can play while the adults have a chance to visit.”
Even if you’re not a parent, subtract those young children and add a few of your closest friends who like to talk about everything. The girls from Sex and the City may be comfortable talking about their exploits over brunch, but wouldn’t you like to enjoy delicious food and juicy gossip in your own kitchen?
King says her own reasons for bringing the dining out experience back in was pure curiosity.
“It started with pasta,” she remembers. “We like a certain Italian place and I just knew I could re-create one of the meals. There’s something about trying to invent a recipe to get the flavors the way you remember. Kind of like solving a mystery.”
The joy of cooking may be in the mystery for the “eat at home” chef, but for those with less finesse in the kitchen, she offers the following tips:
Start out with the right tools. King recommends investing in a sharp knife. She says, “Sharp knives make everything faster and easier. It’s a purchase you won’t regret. A large pot for cooking pasta and soup and a large skillet are also good to have.”
Dive right in. “Find a recipe you want to try and go for it!” says King. “The best way to learn to cook is to get in the kitchen.”
Be ready to make mistakes. King reassures cooks who are afraid of ruining the food they’ve purchased to cook, “Keep in mind that you’re also learning a new skill and the ingredients are still less expensive than eating out.”
Bowtie Pasta. Photo from: WikiMedia Commons
Taking King’s advice, I tested out her recipe for Bowtie Pasta with Feta and Lemon Pepper Chicken. As a college student and novice chef, the only real meal I’ve mastered is the egg white omelet. I eat breakfast for dinner a lot. That being said, I felt no shame in Googling this to get started.
For a meal that fed up to six people, the whole grocery bill was around $40. Now, imagine my roommates and I had gone to an Italian restaurant and each ordered the same meal. The average price of a dish in my area in around $15. So, $15 X 6 roommates = $90 or more than double the grocery bill. We saved fifty bucks and didn’t have to live on Ramen noodles to do it.
Overall, the meal was easy and delicious, even though I made my own fair share of mistakes while cooking. Namely, I overcooked the pasta, proving that thorough research on Google does not an expert make. Still, I’m sure my cooking will improve with practice. If anything, recreating my favorite restaurant meals will be excellent motivation to keep working.
King admitted that she too has had her fair share of learning though trial and error.
“Yes, I’ve had some mistakes – smoke detectors going off as guests arrived, finding the melted butter that should have been in the muffins still sitting in the microwave, chicken that didn’t cook completely in the time the recipe stated… “
But King and I are not the only chefs who embrace imperfection.
“Julia Child said, ‘never apologize for a meal.’ And I think that’s true,” says King. “Every cook will have mistakes. No one expects perfection. Mistakes are part of the learning process.”
Hopefully you’ve been inspired or at least intrigued by the idea of being your own personal chef. Armed with the right tools, determination, and patience, you might find you have a hidden knack for cooking. Just be sure to share your gifts with your friends. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.
In the immortal words of Julia Child, “Bon appétit!”
Written by: Mary Kate Polanin