Teach Your Neighbor to Cook Week

This is going to be a somewhat long post, with some background and philosophy and the like, but the end message is important and worth stating up front:

On the week of September 20th, I would like for any of you with a blog who enjoys cooking to find someone (a friend, family member, or someone in your community) and teach them how to cook something, then post about it. You can do the teaching at any point, but post about it on the week of September 20th. If you don't have a blog or other publishing platform, and you'd still like to join in, please do find someone to teach. You can post about it in the comments or just skip that step; the teaching is the important bit.

I started blogging about food because I wanted to try to teach other people to cook. This wasn't an entirely altruistic decision; the blog started as a school project, so I had good reason to start writing. Also, I know that the best way to learn something is to try to teach it to someone else, and I really wanted to learn a lot more about food and cooking. Still, ultimately, I wanted to teach, and I wanted to inspire.

As with many people, I've watched a lot of cooking shows on the  Food Network, PBS, and wherever else they happen to pop up. Except Fit TV; I avoid those cooking shows. Most of them are what are often referred to as "Pour and Stir" shows, when the host has a bunch of ingredients, dumps them into a pot, stirs them together, and a dish is made. Food Network had gotten a reputation as a Food Porn channel because the shows were all flash and little substance; they got people interested in the food, but rarely would someone make food or learn much from the process.

The major counter-example to this is Good Eats. It is no surprise to anyone that I am an Alton Brown fan, and that he was one of the major influences of what I've done here on The Food Geek and elsewhere. His show is much more effective at getting people to cook and understand what is going on in the food.

Still, with cooking shows on television, and even recipe books and, yes, blogs, these can all be a passive experience. You can watch them or read them, and you can admire them, but in the end, you don't have to do anything with them. They can be as real to you books or TV shows or blogs about vampires, whether sparkly or not.

Back before mass media and worldwide niche media, we learned to cook by learning, whether from a relative or in a professional setting. Learning in a professional setting still exists, but I think we've lost a lot of the personal teaching and learning that comes from sitting with Grandma while she bakes a pie. That's a shame.

There are some things that are a lot better learned in real life than from a distance. My favorite example is the feel of dough, whether noodle or bread or gnocchi or pie. If you can feel, just once, what a dough feels like when it's really ready to be turned into its final product, then you know so much more than you can get from the best description in a book.

Now, many of you reading this have probably learned a lot from relatives or friends, which is great. But I know people, and I suspect you do as well, who believe that they cannot cook, and maybe feel that they could never learn. They may not have had the interest or the opportunities to learn, and there is so much food so easily available that need no more work than driving up to a window or putting into a microwave in order to be sustenance.

So I want to change that, and I'd like you to help me. The start of this is something I am calling "Teach Your Neighbor to Cook Week." It's a gift that you give to one or two people, in order to help them learn to make something that they couldn't make before, and maybe something that they were afraid to try.

On the week of September 20th, I would like for any of you with a blog who enjoys cooking to find someone (a friend, family member, or someone in your community) and teach them how to cook something, then post about it. You can do the teaching at any point, but post about it on the week of September 20th. If you don't have a blog or other publishing platform, and you'd still like to join in, please do find someone to teach. You can post about it in the comments or just skip that step; the teaching is the most important bit.

If you are one of those people who believes you can't cook, then try the opposite: find someone to teach you how to make something. Maybe it's a secret family recipe, maybe it's something your friend served when you went over to dinner the other night. Learn, and then tell us how the process went.

Things that would be great to see in the write-ups for the experience are what you taught or learned, if you had any trouble finding a student or teacher, how you prepared for the process, what went right, what went wrong, and what you would do differently if you did it again.

For the person I teach, it will be a completely free experience. If you are short of means, then maybe the student could bring supplies, but even if you are a professional cooking instructor, avoid charging for the lesson. This will be much more meaningful as a gift than as a commercial exchange.

If you have any questions, ask here or on Twitter. I'll update this post with any questions and their respective answers as I can.