Many years ago, there was a TV show called "The Galloping Gourmet" and then after that another show came on called "The Frugal Gourmet"
As a kid I watched the "Galloping Gourmet" every chance I got. I learned many basics and was able to prepare meals for the family at 12-13 years of age.
I practiced and got pretty good. Learned about using a knife and how to do the basic cooking functions.
Some years later in my 20's the Frugal Gourmet came on and I watched it intently. Here I learned even more. Much more.
I must say TV cooking shows taught me the basics and even helped me to understand what it took, to be a good cook.
These shows came long before the "Food Network" and others like it.
I took these basic functions and applied them to more complicated dishes. I got pretty good. I do not use recipes often. I cook from scratch or use help from the store. I have not opened a cookbook in many years. I do have a book on BBQ sauces and I sometimes refer to it. But that is the extent of my book knowledge and use.
I'm in my late 50's now and I am still learning. However, I do not cook nearly as much as I used to.
If you like to cook and you are picky about doing things the way they are supposed to be done, you are half way there.