Some people are very mathematical cooks, following the recipes to the letter, measuring precisely. I'll never forget the student who, when I told him he needed 3 tablespoons of flour, ran to his kitchen station, and then ran back to me, breathlessly waving three different tablespoons: "Ms. Levine! I got the 3 tablespoons!"
Some people are inclined to throw caution to the winds while cooking, throwing everything into a bowl, stirring, and then being rudely surprised when it doesn't turn out as expected.
Of course, cooking is both an art and a science, requiring precision and technique as well as creative flair. But above all, it's an endeavor of the heart.
I think a lot about how I learned to cook. The chocolate chip cookie was the first recipe I made over and over again as a kid. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure I measured everything perfectly. I tried different tools for mixing the dough. I gradually branched out into substituting one ingredient for another, seeing the results. Those were the "training wheels" days. But, I think about what was really going into those cookies, and it was this: My delight at being able to make something I loved. Happiness when my family ate and enjoyed my food. Relief that I was working with my hands, and a familiar relaxation of being surrounded by my kitchen tools. Hope that I would improve this time on my last version. Joy and nourishment. And a kind of repletion of the soul that is specific to perfect food.
When I say perfect food, I mean food made with perfect effort, or perfect love. Your mom's food, made with love, that always tastes the best. A simple egg, cooked perfectly. I think more than anything, cooking taught me to express the real truth of that perfect love. Through cooking, I could make it real. You can't see it. It's not a technique. But it's undeniably there, in the first bite.
This is something that is hard to teach. You can't tell someone what to do to find it. The only thing you can do is put them in the kitchen, over and over again, and see what comes out. Taste the food together and learn.