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Cooking without Recipes by Four Feet Eleven (BLW Contributor)

Growing up, I loved watching Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook.  He was funny and fast with amazing knife skills. My husband loved Julia Child with her heavy accent, quip cooking tips, and passion for food. However, we truly learned to cook from the quintessential chefs in our lives – our mothers! Both of whom never used recipes.

I remember once asking my mom to teach me how to make my favorite chicken with tofu soup, and her response was “just watch.” What I observed was her butchering  a whole chicken into pieces and dropping it into a pot of boiling water followed by pieces of tofu. She never once measured the cups of water, or the amount of salt and pepper used as seasoning. She just knew how much was needed, and I remember thinking I could never repeat what she did without writing it down. The same is true for my mother-in-law who doesn’t even need measuring tools when making the batter for fried Jamaican dumplings. Both learned to cook the same way we did – by watching their mothers and from years of experience in the kitchen experimenting with ingredients and memorizing what to do. There were no recipe cards or books to reference – they just cooked with their senses using their eyes, hands, nose, and heart. It is by far the best way to cook, and we are carrying on their tradition.

When my husband makes his favorite meal – Thanksgiving dinner – he doesn’t use the same seasoning on his turkey year over year. It always tastes a bit different, but always delicious! When friends ask for recipes, we can’t give it cause we rarely use measurements and most times throw in extra and unexpected ingredients or seasoning just for fun! After years of cooking withOut recipes, we are more knowledgeable about food and various cooking techniques. We know which ingredients taste good together and how much seasoning is enough – and what to do when it’s too much.

Writing it down just seems silly now.

Check out other great articles from Four Feet Eleven



  1. I would love it if I could master this. I am so process oriented that I cannot even think straight if I am short of an ingredient in the recipe. I am trying to come out of this.

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