Last Call: What recipe would you teach a person who had zero cooking experience?

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I flew cross-country last week, which means I caught up on my queue of unwatched Queer Eye episodes. (This season is as delightful as everyone’s said it is.) But a small culinary detail of one episode struck me: In an episode titled “Soldier Returns Home,” food guru Antoni Porowski is tasked with teaching the returned soldier, Brandonn, how to cook one go-to dinner recipe for his family. Brandonn admits he’s never cooked a meal in his life—honestly never, and he seems genuine about that—and so Porowski recommends he learn… pasta carbonara?

Pasta carbonara isn’t foolproof. It required Brandonn to separate eggs, whisk in the correct type of cheese, make sure the dish doesn’t congeal. Brandonn didn’t know the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste and admitted he didn’t know how to hold a knife properly. Carbonara seemed to me overly ambitious, a dish that requires too much culinary intuition for a complete newbie.


So, what would have been a simpler, less risky dish to teach Brandonn? I brainstormed a bit while carefully meting out my compliments-of-Delta miniature pretzels. When my own culinarily challenged brother asked me for an easy date-night recipe, I gave him this one for baked chicken. Maybe something like chicken quesadillas could have been a crowd-pleaser for Brandonn’s little kids? Or maybe pesto-sauce pasta? A one-pan skillet concoction?

I’d be curious to hear the first dish you learned to cook when you were just getting started in the kitchen. Surely it wasn’t pasta carbonara.