For a long time, the only thing I knew how to cook was Spice Island – a stir-fry with rice and peanut sauce that is well-loved by most of my family. It’s a tasty, reasonably nutritious meal that reheats well. You can’t go wrong.
As I got older and more health-conscious, my cooking became very utilitarian. Lean protein, beans, raw vegetables, nuts – little variety and not much room for experimentation. Food was fuel, and I didn’t feel the need to make it taste great – just good enough to get me through my next five-mile run.
Now, I’ve developed more of a balance between staying healthy and eating food that tastes great – but to be honest, I still generally just make rice while my boyfriend crafts our spectacular dinners. But my cooking skills have grown a lot. In fact, sometimes I don’t just make rice – I make risotto.
And I owe it all to TV.
My sister, who studied professional cooking, introduced me to the Food Network when I was an adult. We never had cable growing up, and since I didn’t really cook, I never really considered what I would get out of watching other people cook on TV. While I enjoyed watching certain shows with her, it wasn’t something I was really excited about.
Then, Netflix premiered Chef’s Table. Not only is this documentary absolutely stunning to watch, it offers more than just recipes – you learn about the lives of these world-renowned chefs, instead of just their menus. I was enthralled, and probably picked up some tips along the way.
And Anthony Bourdain showed up on my list of Netflix recommendations. Since his shows A Cook’s Tour and The Layover were added to the library, I’ve spent at least an hour each evening watching him eating and drinking his way through exciting cities around the globe – for a few weeks now. I’m a bit late jumping on the Anthony Bourdain bandwagon, admittedly, but I can see why he’s my sister’s favourite.
YouTube has also introduced me to many more creative, talented chefs. Channels like Munchies; You Suck At Cooking; F***, That’s Delicious; VICE (with Matty Matheson); and my newest discovery, Binging with Babish, offer short and usually hilarious videos that provide hours of educational entertainment – and have inspired me to make all kinds of new dishes.
Or, at least, they’ve inspired me to ask my boyfriend to make them. With my expertly-cooked rice on the side.
Spice Island will always have a place in my heart (and on my plate), but thanks to my continuing culinary education, the quality of my peanut sauce has gone up a couple notches.