So one of the last shows I worked on in radio was a food show hosted by the esteemed Arthur Schwartz. And it gave me the opportunity to meet a bunch of people in the food world. One of whom was Mark Bittman, the Minimalist, at the New York Times and the author of the great cookbook How to Cook Everything.

We’d always joke with him that Arthur was going to write a cookbook called How to Cook Everything Else.

But in today’s Times, Bittman, talks about gifts you can give to people who don’t generally cook. Such as these easy suggestions that cooks can give to non-cooks.

A cooking lesson — from you: A truly generous gift. Cooking with someone who spends little or no time in the kitchen is fun and, as teachers know, a learning experience for you, too. (It’s also nice to feel like an expert.) Can you teach someone to cook two dishes you know they like? How wonderful!

A shopping lesson: For some, shopping is more intimidating than cooking; it’s often more time-consuming as well. Efficiency can be taught and learned, however, and cooking becomes more manageable if you can shop smart. Take a non-cook for a spin around the supermarket (or farmers’ market) and show them how you shop; what your pantry and fridge staples are; what you buy to supplement the basics. Discuss what you plan on doing with all that stuff when you get home.

Both: Plan a meal; take your non-cook friend to the market; go back home and help cook it. Leave your friend with more food than he or she needs, and leftovers as well. I’ve done this, and it generates the warm, fuzzy thing. Better still, sometimes just seeing it done is enough to put people on the cooking path.

I’m not exactly a gourmet but I learned enough to make food I like. I do like to cook but don’t have a lot of time to do it. I like to really go all out when I do things. I remember cooking for my wife when we first started dating (a four course meal including dessert) and it totally impressed her (and me). Cooking is an art and I often think it should almost never be something you just “throw together.” Rather, it should be done with care. On retreats, I almost always insist that we try to get a good cook to handle meals rather than making the retreatents cook for themselves. While cooking can be viewed as a service, sometimes that service should be performed by someone who actually knows what they are doing. I still haven’t found someone who can do this as well as our cooks at the retreat house in New Jersey at Mt. Paul.

But perhaps that will be on my list of New Year’s Resolutions. After all as Mark Bittman says:

Yet the benefits of cooking, about which I’ve written before, are many: Cooking gives you control over what you put into your body and it’s cheaper than eating out or taking in. Food you make yourself tastes better, and it’s better for the environment, for your body, for your family. It’s just plain better.

Indeed it is. So Bon Appetite.

And get cooking.

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