I consider myself quite lucky, in that my parents are huge cooking fans and were always pulling out old cookbooks and new recipes! Even when I turned veggie and then vegan, they never stopped having fun creating new dishes (they are veggie now, and my younger brother is vegan, so at least they got a good 6-or-so years of practice in!). Growing up in an environment where cooking wasn’t a chore but a passion has probably helped me greatly…but it wasn’t always so!
I used to hate cooking when I lived at home, maybe because my parents often cooked for us so I didn’t have too, I always left cooking until I was really hungry, our kitchen was tiny, I didn’t own any good cookbooks to follow or I was always afraid of using some ingredient that was meant to be saved for dinner that night. But most of all, it was the fear of being judged; we never get taught how to cook as children (my parents generation were taught at school) so finding my feet was hard under the watchful eye of my mums – criticising the mess, being quick to comment on the accidents and failures, and my successes never being as good as theirs! Don’t worry, they weren’t demons! Just parents trying to cook for a family and me getting in the way (I broke my wrist trying to help in the kitchen once, but you don’t want to know about that!).
I went vegan shortly before starting at university and I think that terrified my mum, she probably thought I’d starve or something. So she quickly taught me a few basics (a ‘cheese’ sauce being the one I’ll never forget, such a good sauce for so many dishes!), but I believe that having no cooking skills yet being vegan set me up for the best possible path.
There were no shortcuts, I couldn’t just eat a microwave ready-meal or grab a fish and chips! So slowly but surely from the ground up, I taught myself to cook! My boyfriend (whom I met a little into my first year) can vouch for my ever-improving skills. After relying on cookbooks and recipes for a while, I started getting more creative and throwing some of my own things together – even baked goods, honestly I swear by my chocolate cake recipe against any other! It’s gotten to the point now were I very rarely use a cookbook for actual cooking, they are usually just for inspiration!
To the point of this blog post though… cooking from scratch not only reduces waste, it is waaaay healthier and definitely cheaper! You can make up a whole batch of food for the same price as one ready meal, and still have a few portions to stash away in the freezer. Fresh food tastes better and the scraps can be saved for a DIY vegetable stock, too.
P.S. The picture of this post is a bit of shameless self-promotion, last year (2016) I started writing a cookbook aimed at vegan students and actually managed to sell quite a few copies! The e-book can be bought here for £3. **self-promotion over**