Welcome! This is Cook 5, a website of culinary instruction. My intention for this blog is to make cooking accessible to anyone who wants to learn. For example, if a recipe calls for a diced onion, there will be instructions on how to dice an onion!
Why culinary instruction? When I was in college I was inspired to learn to cook. This was pre-internet and I learned using books and magazines and I became a devotee to the weekly food section of the New York Times. There were many frustrations due to a lack of clear guidance. A chef I knew recommended a (still) popular classic reference cookbook and one night I wanted to make macaroni and cheese. I was a junior and lived with five other dudes in a three bedroom apartment on Comm Ave in Brighton MA. The kitchen wasn’t tidy and our pantry wasn’t stocked. One of the steps in the revered classic cookbook’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe called for making a béchamel (know what a béchamel is? at the time I had no clue); and one of the steps in making the béchamel involved a small onion studded with cloves.
That clove-studded onion is the inspiration for this blog. This blog is intended as a guide for those who want to learn to cook. I was 20 years old with zero skills and zero points of reference and I bought a five dollar jar of cloves so I could use three of them to stud an onion so I could make a béchamel to make what I hoped would be a simple dish of macaroni and cheese. An experienced cook may find value in the nuanced flavor those cloves impart to the finished casserole. But the beginning cook needs easy, satisfying wins, and my mac ‘n’ cheese endeavor was neither easy nor satisfying. But I had willingness and I continued to stumble along, and gradually I became a proficient cook.
Why Cook 5? Over the past 20 years there has been nothing in my life that’s been as rewarding as learning to cook. I came to love the process of cooking and the ritual of a meal, whether it was me and five or ten others or me and one other, as it often was. (If you want to sense an immediate shift in how a woman perceives you, introduce into a conversation that you know how to cook.) After some time I found that the real fun began after I learned the fundamentals, because then it was possible to head off on my own, to make incredibly satisfying meals with random ingredients I had laying around.
Despite the ability to explore at will – to pick up a cookbook and have a pretty good idea of how something will turn out, or notice that something’s not quite right with a recipe – there are several simple dishes that I come back to over and over again because of the satisfaction they always provide. It occurred to me that if a beginner could learn to cook these five simple things — foods which require only a minimum of equipment and which provide a significant return on investment — then he would pick up along the way the fundamental skills and basic experience with which to grow as a cook.