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The Beginner’s Kitchen: 5 Tools for the New Home Cook

As someone who doesn’t cook often, I view my kitchen as that place at home where I carry out every task except the one for which it’s intended — cleaning, organizing, reheating leftovers. Or I write and work in it. So whenever I do attempt to make food in the kitchen, I feel like a beginner, time and time again. Thanks to my uncanny ability for avoiding intermediate levels of cooking expertise, I know that starting out can be a discouraging and even bewildering experience, and not just for the obvious reasons, like mistaking salt for sugar or accidentally setting off the fire alarm because you broiled cinnamon toast instead of baking it (true story).

Though mistakes are hard to avoid, I’ve learned that it helps to start with the right tools. Considering the overwhelming number of kitchen gadgets and varying price points, I narrowed the list down to the absolute necessities without sacrificing quality. When it comes to building your arsenal of cooking equipment, you’ll want to spend a little more on some things to ensure they do their job properly. After all, there will always be opportunities to cut corners, but a chef’s knife is not the place to do it. For under $200, here are five tools I recommend for starting your own Beginner’s Kitchen.

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Stupidly Simple Beginnings: Banana Milk Shake

Photo: Eddy Vallante

It’s a little hard to explain why I created a cooking show when I can’t cook. But that’s what I did one day four summers ago as I sat in my apartment in Midtown Manhattan craving a very specific banana shake from a Venezuelan restaurant in the East Village, a 20-minute excursion from home. In most parts of New York City, you can be adventurous and sample over a dozen different cuisines within a five-block radius or you can be as particular as you’d like and have pancakes for dinner and pizza for breakfast.

But even in a place like New York where there is no lack of options or, perhaps I should say, especially in a place like New York, we’re hungry.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Cook at Home Even If You Don’t Know How

Hurricane Sandy Survival Meal

“You cook, I clean.”

This phrase has become something of a personal mantra in the apartment that I share with my boyfriend, Chris. He loves to cook, so I do my part by putting leftovers away and ensuring no crumb or sauce-lined pan is left behind. (A practical concern when you have two intrepid and perpetually hungry cats.)

“Cooking relaxes me,” friends and acquaintances say to me, usually during a conversation in which I share that I rarely, if ever, make my own food. I try to visualize the kitchens to which they retreat after a long day. I picture the motions they go through and steps they take; I sense the satisfaction they get slicing, chopping, kneading, squeezing, stirring and mashing after eight hours of tapping on a keyboard. There’s gratification in creating something that’s greater (and more edible) than the sum of its parts. There are many reasons why people cook. I get it.

I used to say I was too busy to cook, but that excuse only works when you’re not with someone who feels energized in the kitchen after a 10-hour work day. (But, let’s be real, Chris is a unicorn.) Sometimes I play the Convenience Card, rattling off names of restaurants within a stone’s throw of home or lunch delivery spots stored in my phone as “favorites.” There’s no end to the reasons why I don’t cook, but at the root of my excuses is one long-standing fact: I feel that I can’t. 

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