Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:31 PM

Sometimes it's nice to have directions - say, when you're driving alone through unfamiliar territory and the locals look hostile. Or when you're staring at the 1,298 pieces that comprise the seven-tiered DIY cabinet you just bought for the living room.

In such cases, a plan comes in handy. A plan is what guides you through seven hours of Swedish engineering or a two-day road trip to the Midwest.

On the other hand, it's pretty awesome to just fly by the seat of your pants.

In the realm of cooking, newbies like me tend to cling to recipes. We're like 2-year-olds clutching onto mom's pant leg in the face of extreme danger. But recipes are a nightlight to the novice - a kindly guide through the terrors of the stove top.

Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:30 PM

Ageism. There's no denying it exists. Even in the banana world.

When you're a young banana with a brightly colored and blemish-free peel, everyone wants a piece of you. You fly off store shelves to top a sundae or a bowl of cereal, or to be enjoyed on your own, because people think you're that good, just as you are.

But inevitably, time has its way with you. You mush a little in the middle. Your peel shows symptoms of bruising and wear (evidence of an adventurous life, you say), but people stop paying you any mind.

What's a person to do with an overripe banana? Send it Florida with a retirement package and a pair of those huge, super-tinted sunglasses that fit over regular glasses? 

Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:28 PM

Couscous now fills the warm place in my lazy-cook's heart that use to be filled will cereal and deli ham.

The stuff is just so darn easy and expeditious. If couscous were a person, it'd be someone you invited over all the time because it would make dinner for you, then rub your feet while you eat and repeatedly tell you how good looking you are.

It's hard not to like a food like that. But the stuff cooks up in a jiff and makes friends with just about anything you can think to toss into it. It's become my go-to food on those night when sluggishness reigns, but a burgeoning personal shame won't allow me to gnaw on raw pasta for dinner. At least not as often.

Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:28 PM

I did it. I cooked a fish! And I ate it! My roommate ate it too and we're both still alive today to talk about it, right Nichole? ...Nichole?

It was, without a doubt, the best fish I ever cooked and ate.

I consider it one of the greatest achievements of my cooking career. The last time I brought a fish home it was alive - and it stayed that way for weeks until it went belly-up in the bowl I kept on my dresser. I didn't eat it. I flushed it down the toilet. That's what one does with fish, no?

Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:28 PM

I did it. I cooked a fish! And I ate it! My roommate ate it too and we're both still alive today to talk about it, right Nichole? ...Nichole?

It was, without a doubt, the best fish I ever cooked and ate.

I consider it one of the greatest achievements of my cooking career. The last time I brought a fish home it was alive - and it stayed that way for weeks until it went belly-up in the bowl I kept on my dresser. I didn't eat it. I flushed it down the toilet. That's what one does with fish, no?