I learned most of my basics from spending time in the kitchen with my grandmothers, mom and her two sisters, and in Boy Scouts. Other things I have learned over the years have come from a cousin who was a chef, uncles who knew how to butcher and smoke meats, watching cooking shows, reading, and a lot more time in the kitchen "experimenting".
Cooking is better learned by demonstration than just from reading descriptions from books. However, you can learn a lot of the essentials from books, too! Beg, borrow or buy (get the hardcover edition) a copy of Joy of Cooking
- the 1975 revision that only lists Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker as authors on the cover. This has a lot of information on what you need to set up your kitchen, what different ingredients are, how to use them, explains different cuts of meats and how to cook them, etc.
If you want to get more into the "science" then you might want to check out a copy of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
(Hardcover - Revised Edition) by Harold McGee.
There are some other good books, look in our cookbook forum
for some other suggestions, but these two will get you started.
For some cheap cooking classes check out your local community college (usually a continuing education course during the evening) or community center (usually sponsored by the parks and recreation department). Some grocery stores also have coking demonstrations/classes - you'll just have to check around .... I know that around me Central Market
and Whole Foods
have them every couple of weeks or so.
Yes, like anything else, cooking has a learning curve. But, like the other challenges you have overcome in your life (potty training, drinking out of a glass, walking, dressing yourself) you can learn to cook, too! There are really only about 7-11 ways to cook food ... everything else is technique or ingredients.
Now, as for impressing the ladies because you can cook a meal ... yep, you can ... I've got two ex-wives that can attest to that. But trust me - cooking with her before you get too serious is a not an option, it is mandatory! The morning after the honeymoon is over is not the time to find out that she is reading the egg carton to find instructions to make scrambled eggs, or looking for the instruction manual for the toaster to make toast ...