Musings: Cooking Style

So I found an interesting article at Lifehacker about the Four Stages of Teaching Yourself to Cook.  Since Real Food involves a lot of cooking at home, I thought it was an interesting topic.  I don’t exactly agree with the Four Stages as presented there.  In fact, I’d probably cut it back to three.

  1. Following recipes meticulously.  Never a deviation, and never a substitution.  Never throwing a dish together on the fly.
  2. Following recipes as guidelines, or following recipes for some dishes and throwing a dish together for others.
  3. Coming up with your own recipes without using someone else’s as a guideline, or always throwing a dish together.
I’m pretty sure that I am solidly in Stage 2 now, but I used to be very much in Stage 1.  You see, I left for a boarding school at 16, and I didn’t get a chance to practice cooking at home much.  I mean, I helped bake from when I was  little kid, in exchange for licking the spoon.  I helped with the chaos that was Thanksgiving dinner.  But as for cooking on my own, every day, planning meals, and such, I didn’t really start doing that until my second year of college.
I had a few cookbooks to start with, and copies of my grandmother’s recipes.  I also picked up a few of the things that weren’t written down, like my mom’s chili recipe, which is never the same way twice.  And for the longest time, I was in Stage 1.  I had to measure everything, never cut corners, and followed cooking times exactly.  This is great for baking, but gets tedious for making everyday meals.
I’ve gradually gotten to the point where I know what a tablespoon of spices looks like in my hand, that oregano and marjoram have similar flavor profiles, and that it really is ok to leave out or add ingredients to a recipe.  Occasionally I’ll just look in the pantry and throw something together.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get to Stage 3.  I don’t feel like I’m creative enough in the kitchen to be able to come up with my own recipes.  I know some people can be, I follow the blogs of several of them.  But I don’t think it will be me.
What about you?  Which stage are you in?  Do you think you will get to one of the later stages?  Do you even want to?
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