It was not long ago that I was scared to death to cook anything in the kitchen.  In fact, I would panic nearly every time. I was so afraid that I would burn something, set my house ablaze, serve raw uncooked food, or ruin dishes I made by adding too little or too many spices and herbs.  In those days, I barely even knew what spices and herbs were, let alone understood how to use them.  My friends, family, and I have tons of stories we could tell to make each of you feel better about getting in the kitchen and cooking something new, much less anything at all.

One Thanksgiving, or shall I say the first Thanksgiving that I volunteered to cook the entire meal, I felt so nervous while preparing the turkey.  I prepped this beautiful bird with herbs and spices and anticipated how wonderful it would come out.  I had the oven set to the exact cooking temperature for the perfect turkey. I did everything I knew to do before and during the cooking process. I even put a thermometer in the thigh of the bird to know when it reached 165-175. I thought there was no way I could mess this up.  Little did I know, I melted the thermometer while cooking, and I removed the half-cooked bird from the oven and did not even give it time to rest. I started to carve, and blood began pouring out of all areas of this bird.  I panicked.  I thought how could this not be done? I know I cooked it exactly as it said to cook it. The amount of time to cook it and temperature was just as it should have been.  I had destroyed this poor bird.  “What am I going to serve my in laws for dinner now?” What I did next was so ridiculous that I can only laugh about it now.  I took each cut piece of that bloody bird, which amounted to half the turkey, and put them in a bowl.  I proceeded to go out back and threw all of it over the fence into the woods.   When I came back inside, a light bulb went off in my head. All I had to do was put it back in the oven and cook it longer.  I felt like such the idiot.  I had tossed half of the turkey over the fence.  At that moment, the cook in me kicked in, and without any fear or panic, I put the rest of the bird back in the oven to finish cooking.  When I took it out the second time, it was perfect.

Telling that story should give you hope. Have no fear; you will mess up again. What is important is that we learn from our mistakes and finish what we start. Earlier, I mentioned my anxiety towards incorporating spices and herbs in my cooking.  However, I got to know them by looking, smelling, and most importantly tasting them.  Fortunately, you do not have to be concise and perfect when cooking, as using herbs and spices provide a lot of room for errors and improvements. Start out small and add more to it. It would be an odd sight to see me using a measuring cup or spoon. I know it might seem a little foreign, but try putting them away. Make it fun by eyeballing and then tasting. Be aware: once you add it, you can’t subtract it.

Most importantly, taste as you go along.  If you want more flavor, slowly add a little more until it tastes just the way you like it.  Simply start small, and cooking will get easier and more enjoyable. In the beginning of your cooking endeavors, it’s best not to try to create a big lavish meal.  Start with a small dish or a recipe you already make well.  Practice until you perfect it.  Once you feel more comfortable, graduate to the new meals with more ingredients.  Remember, it’s all about the inspired art of cooking.

Please share your own kitchen horror stories below in the comments section.