Kitchen Basics: Principles for Life Success

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There are tools that every cook knows she/he need to make a successful meal. I am a cook. I enjoy my time in the kitchen for several reasons. Firstly, I really like to eat. Secondly, I get a thrill at experimenting with flavors and spices and creating beautiful dishes. And, thirdly, I feel keenly the privilege of preparing good food for my family.

The kitchen is the center of our home. This is not a new concept. The hearth was commonly found in the kitchen. In fact, in Latin, the word focus means hearth or fire. The kitchen being the focus of the house makes sense. It is where people congregate and converse and often where meals are shared along with ideas and experiences.

The kitchen is one of the most essential rooms in your house because it is where your sustenance is found. So it is little wonder that basic life truths can be found in her nooks, crannies, cupboards, and cabinets. So, let’s see what’s cooking in the kitchen, shall we?

Here are a few principles that every successful cook knows.


We’ve heard this in other words touted from the tops of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. DECLUTTER. If you want to create something, you need to make room for it. If your counter is cluttered with days’ worths of mail, car keys, or even just smeary or sticky, you’re already behind the eight ball. Before you start cooking, clear off your counter. Put away the dishes/ glasses. Throw out the junk mail. Stow your keys in the proper place. Do the dishes in your sink. Make space for yourself to function. There’s nothing worse than a dirty countertop that you’re sticking to or trying to rinse vegetables around a mountain of dirty dishes. Starting with a cleared work area is essential to cooking a good meal.

Basic: Before you start digging into what you want to do, make room. Clean. Organize. Give yourself space to create.

There are a plethora of statistics I could cite, but I’ll just leave you with one. According to The Wall Street Journal, the average executive wastes six weeks of her/his year looking for misplaced files. Six weeks of waste and frustration. So, organize, declutter, and clean before you start. Preparation is key to success.


On the topic of preparation, let’s talk ingredients. A good cook knows you need to start with good ingredients. That means you must be intentional about what you select off of the market shelves and out of the produce bins. You don’t want to buy an onion that is all mushy when you squeeze it. If you do, chances are that you’ll cut into it and find it bruised or molding. Most undesirable. Nor do you want to buy an onion that is too green. The flavor hasn’t developed properly and its addition to your dish will not give the desired flavor. So, when buying your produce, you want to make sure it is properly ripe and hasn’t been sitting on the shelf too long. This goes for any other products be they meat, diary, or even seemingly non-perishables like rice, flour, or- my personal pet-peeve- spices. (I buy my herbs and spices here.) You want to stay away from overly processed and genetically modified foods. Rule of thumb is the fresher, the better. And, if you’re making a specific recipe, make sure you buy the right ingredients.

Basic: Seek out good quality raw ingredients with the least additives. The purer the better. Put good thing in, and you’re a step closer to getting good things out.

As a writer, I make sure that the basic needs I have are at my finger tips- a functioning and reliable word processor/program. An excellent dictionary. I have three on rotation. A thesaurus. Reference books- Shakespeare, Bulfinch’s Mythology, etc. These ingredients are there to make my novel or blog post or short story the best it can be.


If you have ever had my husband visit your house (specifically your kitchen), then you’ve had the benefit of having your knives sharpened. A sharp knife is one of the most essential instruments a cook can have. It chops, slices, fillets, dices, and even can be laid flat and used to smash garlic cloves. It is one of the most versatile instruments you’ll find in your kitchen. You don’t want a dull blade. It makes all of those previously listed functions so much harder to accomplish. You’ll fatigue yourself because you’re applying a lot more pressure on the knife to make it cut, not to mention how dangerous it is. Dull knives slip, giving you less control over where the blade is going. Dull knives equal frustration, exhaustion, and pain. So, you need to sharpen them. (PSA - There are tons of DIY tricks such as running the blade over the bottom of a coffee mug. That will not properly sharpen the blade nor will it keep it sharp for very long. Get a good sharpener. I use this one.)

Basic: Stay sharp. Hone your blade.

Like a knife, use your gift daily, but know that everyday use of it- be it writing, making music, doing spread sheets, cogitating new innovations, et. al.- will make it dull. You must sharpen it. To sharpen my writing skill, I read. I write everyday, or mostly everyday. But, when I find writing hard to do, I step back and do some intentional reading. Reading hones my skill by sharpening my awareness of good writing . That’s how I sharpen myself. Find your whet stone, and be intentional about keeping yourself sharp.


Be it a grill, an electric stove, or an open flame, a heat source is important. You can chop chicken cubes and all the pretty veggies, but if your heat source isn’t working, your stir-fry is going to be unpalatable. You need a reliable heat source. You need to know how to handle that heat source. A grill is different that a stove than an oven. Understanding your source is important. Not only do you need to know how to use your source successfully, you need to understand how to safely handle each source.

Basic: Makes sure you have a heat source. Heat is passion. Fuel your passion.

Stir up the gift within you. But don’t let that passion become so out of control you burn yourself up in the process. No one likes to eat charred, inedible food. You don’t want it on your plate, and you don’t want it anywhere near your gift. So, balance yourself. Be aware of what ignites your passion and nurture that flame, but don’t let it get so out of control that you’re actually sacrificing yourself at its expense.

Like in a kitchen, these four elements will focus you on your goal. Let’s recap:

  1. Declutter. Organize. Clean.

  2. Prepare the necessary elements/ingredients you need to make/achieve the desired end product.

  3. Keep yourself and your skills sharp.

  4. Fuel your passion, but don’t let your goal becomes so out of control that you neglect wise balance.

You learn things in the kitchen. That’s why some of the greatest wisdom can be learned at the hands of a man or woman who knows their way around one. Can you think of another culinary aspect that has a basic life principle in it?