I used to eat tasteless food
Alright, not entirely true, but somewhat true. Although my family is blessed with having some amazing cooks- think my mom or great-grandma. We also have a couple of family members -I will not name names- that try, to little avail. Food has always been in the heart of my family, but I never really thought that eating would be such a vital part of my own language learning process.
If we’re being honest here, I watch too much TV. In fact, I watch TV every evening. I watch everything, from Stranger Things to Gossip Girl (yes, for the Xth time), and of course, my favorite, food /cooking shows. While I love Chef’s Table and Chopped, those shows never really inspired me to get up, go to the kitchen and cook… that was until I met Samin Nosrat, the genius behind Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Aka, the show that changed my life.
Try to follow a recipe
Trying to follow a recipe from a TV show is hard work, lots of pausing, rewinding and “what did she do?” “what did she say?” and trying to match words to actions, so it’s no surprise it's really good language training.
I had never even dreamed of attempting to try a recipe from one of those beautiful food documentaries because everything looks too complicated, almost impossible. Until Samin. The way she explains and guides you through the cooking process just made sense. So much so that I decided to give it a try. I had chicken in my fridge, and for some reason, I also had buttermilk. I followed her recipe by watching her show and lo and behold, the most delicious piece of chicken I have ever eaten in my life.
Get the book
The next logical step was to get Samin’s book. I thought the TV show was good, but the book was life-altering. Samin wrote an entire chapter dedicated to salt. How to use salt, how to buy salt, how to pick salt. I had no idea salt could be that different and serve so many purposes. Did you know that pasta water - the water you use to cook your pasta in- is supposed to taste like seawater? I didn’t. Now you do.
Cook your way through the book
She doesn’t provide a ton of recipes like you would expect from a normal cookbook, but she does give you the guidelines to create good food. Now, every time I cook I think “does it have the four elements of good food?” and I go through the ingredients I just used and see if they fit in any of the four categories Samin points out: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. My food has never been better. And my vocabulary to talk about food has never been richer.
Learn the new vocabulary
Even though it is written for the common home cook, there were quite a few words I didn’t know. This is coming from a person who teaches English for a living… This gave me a chance to widen my vocabulary while widening my palate.
Have people over
The best part of cooking is sharing your food with the people you love. Not only do we all get to eat amazing food, but we also get to talk about it. Hopefully, in the language you are learning.
If you are in the process of learning a new language, then don’t underestimate the power of cooking. It can do so much for your linguistic skills! Are you learning German? “Sweet and Easy Enie backt” is a great show to get you started, her German accent is very easy to understand and the speed is just challenging enough, but not frustrating. Plus, she has penned a few books, so you could also do that.
If you ever make a recipe that’s super delicious, have me over so we can practice our German together.
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Lo and behold: used to present a new scene, situation, or turn of events, often with the suggestion that, though surprising, it could in fact have been predicted.
To no avail/ to little avail: when you do something and what you do fails to achieve what you want.
Aka: is an abbreviation for 'also known as'. aka is used especially when referring to someone's nickname or stage name.
Palate: a person's ability to distinguish between and appreciate different flavors.
To pen/ penned: write or compose.