The Secret to Better Cooking

Over the last few years, I’ve been taking a number of cooking classes and have discovered a few big insights.

Here’s the main one.

The single biggest secret to better cooking is...

Better Ingredients

That’s it.

On the one hand, it seems obvious. On the other hand, it can’t be that simple, can it?

As my own cooking has improved, I’ve noticed that I eat out less and less.

Over time, I’m surprised how much more I like my own food than the food I get at most restaurants.

I’m not even remotely close to a master chef.

I know a few basic techniques.

I kept wondering if maybe I was just imagining the difference.

But as I’ve cooked for others, I realize there’s a difference.

The main one has nothing to do with my kitchen skills, but more with my shopping skills.

I’m willing to buy better ingredients.

In many cases, better ingredients cost more.

For example, locally grown heirloom tomatoes purchased during the “in season” are incredibly delicious, sweet, and bursting with flavor.

The tomatoes that taste this good don’t hold up well when shipped in a cargo truck.

As a result, they are harder to find and more expensive.

Here’s another example:

Fresh herbs taste so much better than dried herbs you get in a bottle.

(I had no idea until I started cooking with fresh herbs.)

Living herbs taste so much better than fresh herbs.

(I had no idea until I started growing my own herb plants on my kitchen counter.)

Finally, buying produce when it’s in season makes a world of difference.

With global supply chains, you can buy almost any fruit or vegetable year round.

However, there’s an enormous difference between buying produce in season (especially locally) and something shipped.

The taste is night and day.

As a modern person, I unfortunately have no intuitive concept of when various fruits and vegetables are in season.

Now, I google charts that tell me what’s in and out of season in my area.

The best part is “in season” produce tastes incredible and is usually dramatically cheaper too.

Better ingredients going into the pan lead to better results coming out of the pan.

I find this turns out to be true in life as well.

The secret to better results in life is to contribute higher quality “ingredients” or inputs to your life.

This boils down to three categories of “ingredients”:

1) Relationships

2) Time / Quality of Time

3) Ideas

First, the quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your personal and professional relationships.

If you have terrible relationships at home and terrible relationships at work, you’ll never have a great life.

Even if you win the lottery, the quality of your life will never exceed the quality of your relationships.

Second, you get out of your life what you put into it.

If you want greater health, devote time to your health.

If you want better relationships, devote time to working on your relationships.

If you want to improve your skills, devote time to improving your skills.

Time is the universal input into every facet of life.

In addition to the quantity of time you put in, the quality of the time you put in matters as well.

An hour of your time when you’re exhausted and distracted isn’t the same as an hour of your time when you’re well rested, taking good care of yourself, and able to focus.

Who gets the best hour of your day? Your boss? Your spouse? Your parents? Your kids? Yourself?

There’s no right or wrong answer for any particular day, but it’s a question worth thinking about.

Third, the results you get out of life are directly related to the quality of the ideas that go into it.

If you’re enamored with a dumb idea, it really doesn’t matter if you devote all of your time and energy to it. You’ll still get a poor outcome.

If you learn and apply just one really good idea from a book, a class, or a mentor, it can change your life.

When you combine good relationships, good time allocation, and good ideas, you end up with a really good life.

Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

It may not be easy to do, but at least it's conceptually simple.

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