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Old 11-12-2008, 10:46 AM   #11
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Buy 2 or three good knives, not a set. Buy two or three good pots, not a set. Those white plastic cutting boards are inexpensive and good to your knives and can go into the dishwasher. Buy a couple of those and move up to wood later if you feel the need.

Decide which pots and pans to buy based on what you cook and for how many people. You don't need whole sets of anything.
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Old 11-12-2008, 02:01 PM   #12
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...and shop your second had stores, Goodwill and all those kind of places.
You'll be amazed what you'll find. (Ask JoeV)
Make sure you are comfortable with your equipment.
(I can't handle my cleaver, it's just too big and heavy for me. So it was a wasted investment.)
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Old 11-13-2008, 10:47 AM   #13
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I recommend you start working with dishes similar to ones you love the best OR that the people you feed love the best. Nothing encourages a cook more than having their food truly appreciated. If you fix something and people at the table just pick at it, or worse yet, say "yuck", not because you didn't do a great job of it, but because it is simply something they don't like no matter how perfect a job you did of it, you'll get discouraged very quickly. Then venture off into experiments with similar ingredients, but different dishes. I firmly believe in avoiding trying to duplicate a dish that someone's mom or a restaurant makes. It is setting yourself up for failure. It can be a fine balance. In other words, if no one you know likes ginger, don't start with a dish heavy in ginger. On the other hand, don't try to make authentic Thai cuisine for a friend whose mom is Thai unless she offers to teach it to you! Ditto a spouse's parent. If MIL makes a perfect _____, don't try to out do her, don't even make it at all unless she teaches you. It makes for good bonding moments and better relationships.

I think developing a specialty is just that ... something you develop over time. You do this after you've developed a few dishes, and you know which are hits and misses. You need to develop, too, a hard shell sometimes. Luckily I've always cooked in an environment where most people like to experiment in eating, so it's easy. When I first moved to the Midwest, I wondered, but eventually I wound up with several "specialties" that were not my specialties at all in younger days.
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Old 11-13-2008, 12:29 PM   #14
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I agree with what the others have said so I will only add that you can also "learn" a lot about cooking just by reading recipes. The more you read the more you learn. I look at a cookbook the same way I read a novel.

By reading the directions from the recipes, you will start seeing trends, repeated techniques, needed equipment etc. Even though I do not fix each recipe I read there are many times that I find myself having a light bulb moment when fixing something. (I could do... like I read in that recipe for stir fried squid or I remember a recipe where xxx and yyy were blended with zzz so they should work with this too)

I would also suggest that you observe other people cooking to see if you can pick up any "expierenced cook knowledge"
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