Do You Follow the Rules When You Cook?

I am a person who gets nervous about breaking the rules. I hate cutting in line, rarely drive faster than the speed limit, and always, always pick up after my dog. It probably comes as no surprise then that for many years I was careful about following rules in the kitchen. From sticking closely to recipes to only cooking pasta the "correct" way, cooking rules made me feel safe and secure. But my approach has changed since then, and I'm wondering: how closely do you "follow the rules" when you cook?

I cooked almost exclusively from recipes for the first several years after I started cooking. The idea of going off book made me nervous and totally unsure about how a finished dish would turn out. But as I gained confidence in the kitchen, I started experimenting: swapping in different ingredients, combining techniques from two separate recipes, even (gasp!) cooking without a recipe at all.

If you are not a rule-follower, you are probably giggling to yourself right now, wondering who would feel constrained by a recipe list in the first place. And if you are a rule-follower, you are probably nodding in sympathy and possibly feeling a little anxious about the idea of not consulting a recipe at all.

Nowadays, I'm not afraid to deviate from recipes when I use them and in general have become much more experimental in the kitchen. (I don't even cook pasta the "correct" way anymore.) And I think it has made me a better, more creative, more confident and happier cook. I have a few rules (clean as you go! keep the knives sharp!), but for the most part, the first rule of my kitchen is: You do not have to follow rules in my kitchen.

How about you? Do you feel confident about going off in your own direction, or do you cook better when you have recipes and rules to keep you on track?


(Image: Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock)


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