I read an article by Mark Bittman recently that talked about an easy way for people to start getting more into the kitchen. The article said, basically, that there are three basic types of recipes that make for a good start. The first recipe should be a stir fry recipe. The second should be some sort of chopped salad. And the third should be a rice and lentil dish.
I like this concept. It's basic, and to the point, and I think it's really how most people start out anyway. Maybe not those three particular recipes, but I think most people get a few basic things that they can do, they perfect those recipes, and then they move on, either experimenting with the meals they do understand, or moving on to similar things. That's basically how I got started... pasta for a week, featuring hamburger, onions, and Cream of Something soup, plus as much garlic as I could stomach. Eventually that evolved into rice, with a mix of minced onions, peppers, kidney and black beans, chili powder, and ground turkey, and into other dishes, too.
I also like the recipes mentioned, because they cover some of the basic skills: knife handling, frying pan, and boiling things. A meat and pasta dish, for instance, isn't fundamentally different in preparation from a lentil and rice recipe: Boil the starch, cook the other part, and find a sauce you like to go with the combination. Voila... result could be anything from Indian food to Spaghetti and meatballs. Go figure.
So, on that note, I started playing around with the chick pea burger recipe tonight, using a mixture of chick peas and black beans. And as Ariel and I started talking about the result, and what improvements, substitutions, and omissions could be made, it was pretty clear that bean burgers are destined to become part of the repertoire. I'll post new recipes as they get perfected.
There are other skills that I think are worth learning, like how to make pancakes, bread, soup, or a really good cheeseburger. But either way... like any other skill that's productive, learning to cook is really just a matter of baby steps.
So go start walking...