If recipes were all that were needed to be able to cook, then all of us would be master chefs. But unfortunately, only a handful of us are. So what’s the deal then with the hundreds of thousands of cookbooks that are published each year and the tons of recipes they contain from cover to cover? And with the Internet, we now have online recipes that are free to use, thousands of them if we only know where to look. So the question arises – are recipes enough to make you a good cook?

In my book, the answer would be no, because, in spite of a recipe, a good cook knows:

• That a dish turns out completely different when made by different people following the same recipe
• That cooking is much more than just following a set of written instructions
• That minor and subtle alterations are what makes a dish taste the way it does, and that only someone with a flair for cooking would know how and when to effect these.
• That recipes assume you have a basic knowledge of the cooking process. And if you’re a total novice, even the simplest of recipes could stump you.
• That the quality of the ingredients and how they are selected play a major role in how the final product turns out
• That the times mentioned in recipes are just ballpark figures and that it’s up to the cook to intuitively know if an item needs to be cooked for more or less time
• That it takes skill to cook a dish exactly right, not too much and not too little.
• That you need to be aware of the alternatives in case some ingredients are not available.
• That you need to constantly taste food to ensure that it is cooked right, so you need to know how a dish tastes before attempting to prepare it
• That climate conditions affect the outcome and taste of a dish and that recipes have to be suitably altered.
• That there are shortcuts that you can take if you’re running short of time, shortcuts that will not affect the end result.
• That good cooks become better cooks by experimenting, making mistakes and learning from them, not from cookbooks and the recipes they hold.
• That great cooks learn from experience and from watching others do the deed, not just reading from a book.
• That recipe books must serve as the third and fourth wheels on bicycles, the ones we use to learn to ride. Once they serve their purpose, they must be relegated to the waste, and the art of cooking must be ingrained in us if we are to become truly good cooks.

This post was contributed by Heidi Taylor, who writes about the masters in health care online. She welcomes your feedback at HeidiLTaylor006 at gmail.com