How to Cook

My brother rings in from Texas.

Here's my problem: I am not a cook. You want a over/under absorption and recapitalization analysis on revenue of fifty million dollars per month? No problem; I'll have it done in a day or two. Ask me to plan a healthy menu for the next week, and, well, it's a deer in the headlights look. I don't have a clue. Where do I start?

Well, first, you have to determine that you're going to cook. Eating out — even at nice restaurants — is a very poor substitute for sound nutrition and physical health.

Second, if you're going to cook and you don't know how, you have to learn.

Third: simple simple simple. You can teach yourself through trial and error, which means you'll really learn. And the more you teach yourself, the more you learn. Repeat.

Don't overthink it. First: real food only.

  • meat (inlcuding any organ meats you might like), poultry, fish, shellfish
  • most vegetables (keep potatoes to minimum)
  • some fruits (berries and melons, primarily)
  • nuts (peanuts aren't nuts but legumes — focus on almonds, macadamia, walnuts, brazils, hazels, pecans)
  • fats (lard, butter, ghee, COCONUT OIL, olive oil). Excellent review of oils both here and here.
  • dairy is OK for some people, i.e., milk, cheese, cottage cheese, heavy cream, etc. If you can, get the organic, or, if TX in its infinite wisdom permits it, raw whole, non-homogenized milk
  • spices of all sorts on stuff. Good source of all sorts of nutrients. This is where the particular creativity in cooking comes in. It also gives your preparations a very individual touch. Don't be too afraid to ruin something. It's how you learn; plus, gives you an excellent opportunity for a brief, intermittent fast <wink>.    

Then, just cook stuff. Use your imagination. Experiment. Grilling meats is easy. Stir frying veggies in coconut oil in a wok is easy. Salads are easy, and I always do my own dressings. I don't even mix them first. Just olive oil to start, toss, and then I add in some lemon or lime (usually about half a fruit), or a few dashes of vinegar, or some balsamic — or sometimes a combination. Try apple cider vinegar (it also makes a refreshing drink: 1-2 tsp in a glass of ice water). Get Greek Kalamata olive oil if you can find it. You can always make your own blue cheese or other sorts of salad dressings if you like — plenty of recipes on the internet. Mayonnaise too (with olive oil).

Stay away from all vegetable/grain/seed oils except olive, sesame, coconut and palm (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, etc). We simply didn't evolve eating poly unsaturated oils in concentration. It's essentially the same issue as with fruit juices (would you sit down and eat 2 dozen oranges?). Eating the whole fruit (or vegetable) has it's own built in STOP mechanism that we evolved with side-by-side: the fibrous bulk fills us up before we overload on sugar (with some exceptions — but also recall that non-equatorial primitive man only had fruits part of the year).

Also, stay away from grain-based products. All of them, except perhaps on a very occasional splurge. If you asked your ancestors over the last 2-3 million years (save the last 10,000 or so) to go get enough grain to bake a loaf of bread, it would have taken enormous energy expenditure and time to collect even a handful or kernels (think saffron and why it's so expensive for a comparison). Not only was there no mechanization, but no cultivation either. So, no fields of wheat, per se. They'd have had to forage. Far easier to hunt or trap a high-density, nutritious meal in the form of an animal.

Virtually all plant matter contains various natural "toxins," most of which we are probably well adapted to, as we've been eating those plants (evolved along with them) over millions of years. Not so with grains, most high in gluten, lectins, and other things that cause an awful inflammatory immune response for a lot of people (that puffy look). I suspect that virtually everyone, however, has some level of sensitivity. That's one reason I stay off them. The other reason is that they are converted to sugar, sugar drives insulin, and insulin immediately shuts down fat burning (and turns to segregating toxic glucose away from lean tissues and into fat cells).

But anyway, just cook stuff. Really. We've been doing it for about 1.5 million years, perhaps longer.

Here's a few resources that feature mostly simple preparations:

Mark's Daily Apple (amongst his other super-fabulous postings)

My Paleo Kitchen

Food is Love

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  1. Kyle Bennett on August 28, 2008 at 13:47

    I'm in the same boat. Ask me to code a rough DNS server or a database front end, no problem. Cooking?!?! Yikes, I can't make heads or tails of it.

    I do like the show "Good Eats". The guy knows how to explain things so INTP's can understand them, from basic principles rather than recipe memorization.

  2. Richard Nikoley on August 29, 2008 at 10:05


    Thanks for stopping by. You really have a great resource in your blog. One of the very top in this field.

  3. Mark Sisson on August 29, 2008 at 10:27

    Thanks for the shout out. Great stuff, cheers!

  4. Scott Kustes - Modern Forager on August 29, 2008 at 08:24

    Great overview to make nutrition easy, Richard. Most of the mainstream is trying to complicate things while all that really works is simplifying them. Thanks for the link love!

    Scott Kustes
    Modern Forager

  5. Ian Dumych on December 31, 2009 at 17:13

    Great site! I’ve felt very strongly for a long time now that our modern diets are horribly artificial and that it would make more sense to eat things that we’d find naturally in a forest.

    I have one question for you: What do you suggest for something easy to cook and bring to work as a sack lunch? All my ideas involve grains.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 31, 2009 at 17:45

      Hi Ian. Well, check out the Food Porn Category for a lot of the stuff I cook.

      My chief suggestion for lunch if to put enough work into dinner and make more than enough, so you can’t wait to have it again next day at lunch.

      I am more and more convinced that this is a huge part of the path to success. Just make sure you take good care with dinner, make a lot, make it good, get better, and you’ll always have a great lunch.

      Then repeat. Day after day. I don’t think there’s much possibility of long term success unless and individual or one person in a family resolves and undertakes to cook one excellent meal 90% of days. We have to survive, and to thrive in health, that’s simply a requirement so it’s best to just get it over with.

      • Ian Dumych on January 3, 2010 at 11:10

        Thank you very much for your reply. I’m actually reading through your blog again today because I’m about to go grocery shopping. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want for Lunch or Dinner, but what about Breakfast? The first think I always think of is either toast, cereal, or a bagel, and all of these things have wheat. Is fruit enough to keep me going till noon you think?

      • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2010 at 11:55

        Do you like eggs? If so, why not eggs? Bacon is not bad either. I like to also keep smoked ham and turkey around and slice off some of that.

        But really, you can eat whatever you want for breakfast in terms of meat, veggies, fruit, nuts & such.

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