Cooking is the preparation of food for eating by applying heat. Cooking makes food more appetizing and easier to digest. It also kills harmful bacteria that could otherwise cause illness. Many people enjoy cooking. Skillful cooks take great care in preparing delicious, attractive, and nutritious meals. Some people use the term cooking to refer to preparation of all foods, not just those that are heated. Most people can prepare lettuce salad or other foods without written directions. But many foods, including cakes and sauces, turn out well consistently if prepared according to a recipe. Many cookbooks with a wide variety of recipes are available. Recipes also appear on food packages and in many magazines and newspapers.
This article discusses basic principles of planning meals and preparing food. Some cookbooks give general tips on both topics in addition to providing recipes. A beginner should first try simple recipes and meals and then go on to more difficult ones.
Meal planning involves several factors. The food should be nutritious and appealing, and its cost should be within a family’s budget. A cook also must consider the time required to prepare certain meals.
Planning nutritious meals requires a basic knowledge of the body’s nutritional requirements and the nutrients in different foods. Nutritionists divide foods into basic groups and recommend a certain number of daily servings from each group. The NUTRITION article describes these food groups and lists the recommended number of servings. Meals planned according to these guidelines provide the nutrients a person needs without adding extra calories or dietary fat.
Planning Appealing Meals
An appealing meal includes foods that have contrasting colors, shapes, textures, flavors, and temperatures. The selection of vegetables and fruits can be especially important in adding color to a meal. For example, a meal of sliced turkey, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, white bread, and milk would look unappetizing. A green vegetable and an orange one, instead of cauliflower and potatoes, would make the meal more colorful and appealing. Cutting carrots, beets, and other vegetables into contrasting shapes can also help create variety. The textures of solid foods range from soft to firm, and a meal should include foods that vary in chewiness. Most meals also should include at least one hot food and one cold dish. In addition, a person should serve foods that differ in flavor.
Foods called garnishes can make a dish more attractive. They usually are arranged around the food after it has been cooked. Common garnishes include parsley sprigs, tomato slices, and lemon wedges.