"This week is THE week I stop eating out,” – a pledge we all make (and often fail to keep) when aiming to cook more regularly. Life always seems to get in the way of your Martha Stewart/Jamie Oliver aspirations. And trust me, you’re not alone.
So, what do home-cooked meals have anything to do with the AMC original series, Breaking Bad? For those who are familiar with the show, you may be thinking, “is she actually going to suggest taking notes from a meth cook?!”
The answer: yes and no.
There is actually a surprising amount to be learned from Breaking Bad’s protagonist, Walter White – your average, law-abiding, high school chemistry teacher turned expert meth cook.
Although Walter wasn’t exactly “cooking” in the most conventional sense of the word, there are still some notable tactics he employs to sharpen his skills from mediocre to finger lickin’ goodness! So, for the purpose of this post, we’ll replace the word “methamphetamine” with the likes of “quinoa-avocado salad” and “fluffy pancakes”.
Throughout the show, Walt shows us how to create an external environment that will slowly but surely lure out the kick-ass chef hiding somewhere within you.
Without further ado (drum role), here’s Walt’s guide to cooking like a pro.
1. It's going to be a scary ride. Find your inspiration and hold on tight!
“No matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart.” – Walter White
For Walt, he got into the art of “cooking” in order to provide financial security for his beloved family. That was his inspiration. What’s yours? Perhaps you want to start eating healthier meals, or you’re tired of your kids whining about “meatloaf agaaaain?” (the ungrateful lot), or perhaps you have a dream of one day opening up your own bistro. Whatever your inspiration to start cooking may be, hold on to it and jump right in with both feet.
2. Create an ulterior ego
Meet Heisenberg – Walt’s bad-ass ulterior ego.
Heisenberg is no boring suburban dad, oh no. Heisenberg blows up buildings, and says things like “say my name” just for the heck of it. Walt needs Heisenberg just like Beyonce needs Sasha Fierce.
An ulterior ego will allow you to overcome any emotional/mental barriers that prevent you from grabbing the kitchen by the horns. Think of someone that is capable of doing all the cool kitchen-y stuff that you wouldn’t dream of accomplishing...
Now visualize yourself doing the same stuff but even better. Give that cool guy/gal a name. Dress the part. Act the part until it feels real.
3. Stay organized
Walt didn’t become the best “cook” in Albuquerque by winging it. There is no such thing as “winging” when you’re aiming to be the best at anything. Walt didn’t even begin to cook without taking the time to plan, gather supplies, create a comfortable cooking environment, and… plan some more. It takes time.
When making home-cooked meals, staying on top of it all requires a nicely stocked pantry, grocery shopping more than once a week, and an electronic cookbook that helps you keep all your recipes in one place.
4. Keep your Jesse Pinkman in line
Side-kicks are super important. No restaurant can function without at least one sous-chef, nor could Walt really start cooking without Jesse Pinkman – a meth-pedalling little punk who is weirdly lovable at times.
Whoever helps you gather ingredients, make side-dishes, do the vegetable prepping, clean up or shares your meals in general can be considered your Pinkman. Although Pinkman’s helping hand is greatly appreciated, don’t ever, ever forget that you are the Heisenberg of your kitchen.
When you’re inspired to make quesadillas and Pinkman insists on ordering pizza instead, what do you do? You’ve already bought all the ingredients for quesadillas. Are you really going to let the guacamole go brown over night? Don’t fold! Shut Pinkman up with the best quesadillas he has ever tasted. He won’t question your judgment again.
5. Stay relevant despite your competition
Ok, so what if the food court near your office has the best pad-thai in the city. Does that mean you stop cooking? Did Walt stop cooking when Mexican cartels got in his way? Heck no! He killed them. But that's not the solution I'm suggesting here.
The point is that the meals you cook may not taste all that great at first - especially if you’re used to eating out often. And that’s ok. It will get better as long as you don’t give up. Remind yourself why you started cooking and don’t turn back.
There’s a wealth of cooking resources out there on the web to keep you inspired. This one in particular is starting to become one of my favourite sites for all things food/kitchen related. Check it out here.