This is a guest post from my friend Darrin over at TheGuyCanCook.com. I asked Darrin to write a guest post on getting started with cooking, and he asked if he could draw inspiration from Game of Thrones. My response was, “duh.” Whether you’ve only seen the show or you’ve read the books, there’s much to learn from the people of Westeros. Haven’t seen or read them? Shame on you! Go check out this awesome story, then come back. Take it away Darrin!
“Winter is coming.”
The motto of House Stark – and it’s really more of a warning – sets the tone for everyone in a Game of Thrones. The epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, focuses on the struggle for power between the great families of the seven kingdoms.
But mysterious forces threaten the entire world as well, and the daughter of an overthrown king plots her return from exile…and she’s bringing dragons with her.
This legend is much like what you will experience when you start to learn how to cook healthy food for yourself:
- Like the war between the royal families, it can feel like a brutal struggle for power.
- You will face what feels like other worldly forces that will try to hold you back from what you want.
- But, if you take action, you can rise up from the ashes and win the throne for yourself.
Allow me to explain…
Slay Your Fear
“The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords.”
In Game of Thrones, many characters face their fears over and over again. As a result, they change. They get better. They live more epic lives.
Most people don’t cook because of one thing: they are scared of it:
- We are afraid of spending money on kitchen gear we don’t know how to use.
- We are afraid of trying new foods.
- We are afraid of ruining a meal.
We are terrified of trying something new and failing.
Where cooking was once an essential skill that was passed on from generation to generation, the success of the prepackaged food industry means that expertise in food preparation is now as rare as knowing how to wield a sword.
Fear is a good thing. It is a sign that you are getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.
And it is only by trying new things that you will truly develop and get what you want in life.
You may be afraid of learning how to cook, but you’ll never be able to learn and grow while it is holding you back. And the “failures” you have along the way will only help to increase the speed that you learn to cook.
Here’s a step-by-step method to conquering any fear:
- Acknowledge that you are feeling fear.
- Ask yourself if that fear is holding you back from something you want.
- If the answer is yes, use your 20 seconds of courage and roll the dice.
If you are dedicated to learning a new skill, you will conquer your fear only when you decide to confront it head-on. It will never go away on its own.
If Sam Tarly can kill a White Walker, then you can certainly suck it up and cook a meal!
Eat Like a Medieval Warrior
“The eight soon-to-be brothers feasted on rack of lamb baked in a crust of garlic and herbs, garnished with sprigs of mint, and surrounded by mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter… There were salads of spinach and chickpeas and turnip greens, and afterward bowls of iced blueberries and sweet cream.”
In the novels, food plays a starring role.
From great feasts to humble breakfasts, every meal is described in rich detail.
So we can see that the warriors of the Seven Kingdoms eat a lot of plants and animals, but no ultra-processed foods. Believe it or not, there weren’t many vending machines in King’s Landing.
Although Game of Thrones is set in a fictional world, it is based on historical human civilizations, and the characters eat the same foods humans did 800 years ago.
Up until recently, eating unhealthy was impossible. Healthy food was literally the only stuff that was available!
But these days, our food system has moved away from fields and farms and to factories and laboratories. We are now getting a massive amount of our energy from things like sugar, white flour, and seed oils, things our Medieval ancestors wouldn’t have had the opportunity to consume.
While the debate rages on over what specific diet is ideal for everyone, one fact remains: switching from heavily-processed “food products” to fresh REAL FOOD is the most important change you can make with the way you eat.
Here’s a quick Real Food primer:
- Vegetables and protein should make up a big portion of your diet.
- Fruit, eggs, nuts, and seeds are all solid sidekicks.
- Grains, beans, and dairy are optional, but you might want to experiment to see if a Paleo-type diet without them works best for you.
- Natural herbs, spices, sauces, and even sweeteners are best used in moderation, enhancing your food rather than taking over.
- Signs that your food isn’t Real Food include: it makes bold health claims (seriously!), it contains unrecognizable ingredients, and it contains a dozen ingredients or more. Eat at your own risk!
Now, if you’re going to eat like a Medieval warrior…you’re gonna need to learn how to cook a few good meals.
Be the Sword and the Fire
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
-Oath of the Night’s Watch
The Night’s Watch is the society of men whose job is to defend a massive wall protecting all seven kingdoms from northern invaders.
Learning how to cook means becoming two things, both of which can be found in the oath of the Night’s Watch:
- The Sword in the Darkness – knowing how to cut up meat, vegetables, and other fresh food (without losing a finger)
- The Fire That Burns Against the Cold – knowing how to heat ingredients up until they are edible (and tasty!)
For all of the fear surrounding learning how to cook healthy food, it boils down to just these two basic skills.
To be the sword in the darkness, you must learn these five basic knife skills:
- Peeling–Removing the outer layer of a vegetable (carrots, potatoes).
- Slicing–Creating thin pieces of veggies (celery, carrots, onions, peppers).
- Dicing–Creating large cubes or squares (onions, peppers, potatoes).t
- Chopping–Roughly cutting (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage).
- Mincing–Like chopping, but ending up with smaller pieces (garlic).
To be the fire that burns in the darkness, you must learn how to use heat in the four basic cooking methods:
- Roasting–Heating food slowly in a closed environment.
- Frying–Heating food quickly in an open environment.
- Boiling–Heating food in boiling liquid.
- Steaming–Heating food in the steam of boiling liquid.
Once you have learned the five knife skills and the four heating skills, you can literally cook up a tasty and healthy meal no matter what ingredients you have on hand.
The best way to learn these skills is by learning how to cook your favorite meals from scratch.
I’m a big believer in learning things slowly as you need them. Choose JUST ONE healthy meal that you could eat over and over again. Google the directions, buy the necessary ingredients, and then make it as often as you can. Learn from your mistakes. Get better. Get faster.
Then learn how to make another meal.
Master your knife and cooking skills by making the kinds of foods you like to eat anyway.
Here are some examples of good meals for beginners to learn:
- Pot roast with mashed potatoes
- Roast chicken with roots and tubers
- Grilled steak and veggies
- Chicken and rice soup
- Salmon and asparagus
- Beans and rice
- Barbecued ribs, baked beans, and cole slaw
- Epic Salads
- Scrambled eggs, bacon, and home fries
Start with one thing – just learn that one thing!
Play the Game of Thrones to Win
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
In Westeros, many people are warring over who is to be king. And this is to say nothing of the forces growing both north and across the seas to strike against the Seven Kingdoms.
Ultimately, everyone is fighting so that they can rule themselves, rather than serving someone else.
This skill something you must work hard to win and constantly be on guard to keep. It means you have earned the right to live the life you want, on your own terms.
Most of the food you find in a box, a bag, or a can is garbage, and the manufacturers are battling for the prize of getting you hooked on stuff that will make you unhealthy and out of shape (while making them rich).
When you play the game of thrones, play it to win.
Put yourself and your health first. Not the bottom line of food and supplement companies.
Commit to learning how to cook healthy food.
Do it despite your fears. Learn how to prepare and cook meals from scratch. Eventually it will become second nature. And instead of opting for a microwave dinner or going through the drive thru, it will be easier to just reheat some leftover pot roast or quickly whip up some baked chicken and asparagus.
Over time, you will notice that you start looking better, feeling better, and living better.
And all this without the pain of trying to starve yourself, the agony of tracking calories, or the horror of a diet of protein shakes, egg white omelettes, and unseasoned oatmeal.
Winter is coming…
Today’s Rebel Hero: Bronwyn who has gone from overweight and unhappy to powerlifting supermom in a matter of months:
From Bronwyn: “I went in my third powerlifting competition yesterday, at PTC Brisbane, and got 2nd place trophy. That’s two trophies now for my shiny new collection! (The other was the deadlift comp.) Who would’ve thought I’d ever get trophies for a sports competition of any kind? I was always the short asthmatic who got picked last for any given sports team in school.
Attached are some photos of my 110kg deadlift, and here’s me with my shiny new trophy. All in my NF t-shirt! Shiggles from NF forum took the photos, and CruellaT’Kill from the forum also went in the competition, her first one ever, and she had a blast!
You know what I like? My trophy photo. Take a close look. There’s muscles!