OK, this is, admittedly, a tiny bit off topic, but providores? Seriously? Reggiano parmesan? "Wood fired loaf"?

Listen, I live in Swindon. The reason you've never heard of it is because it's mostly a suburban shit hole. The closest thing to a "providore" I've got is a hallal butcher, and if I asked him to butterfly my lamb I'd get the sort of look that, considering my nationality, I'd be well within my rights to be uncomfortable with.

What we get, here in the real world, is just about the medium grade of supermarket; we're not even posh enough for a Waitrose, let alone anything with a decent fish counter or a reliable selection of fresh herbs. So I'm afraid I can't compete with your perfectly ripe fruit and your fancy champagne. If I take the above description of a perfect meal verbatim, that means that I can never produce really "great food".

Well, bollocks to that. I fucking hate ingredient snobbery, always have done; but to find it in a node that's supposed to make cooking less intimidating for people is just, well, obscene! Choosing only the ripest Italian plum tomatoes and the finest Iberico ham is not cooking - it's shopping. It's consumerist and limiting, and in circumstances in which nobody is trying to overcome the cognitive dissonance by paying you a lot of money for the privilege, ultimately pointless bullshit.

It's true that some people will never learn to cook, whether because they don't want to or for some other reason that, while seemingly trivial to me, is significant enough for them. But most people do cook, up to a point; they do that because they have to, because we all have to eat and because, despite what Jamie Oliver chooses to tell you, the majority of parents don't actively set out to bring up their kids on overprocessed shit that's bad for them. In those kinds of circumstances - and, at the risk of repeating myself, those circumstances represent the real world - here's what I think really makes a good cook:

A good cook can make an interesting meal from the dullest ingredients; a wonderful meal from the worst ingredients; a sumptuous meal from the simplest and cheapest ingredients. A good cook will try - and succeed - to satisfy the various likes, dislikes, appettites, allergies, regimes and religious restrictions of all her diners while keeping the meal nutritionally balanced and tasty. A good cook knows how to cook in bulk without losing any of the flavour and sophistication of a dish. A good cook can make the evening meal into a culinary adventure, day after day after day after day, through toddler years and teenage years and toothless declining years.

A good cook, in fact, is someone who feeds people. The only thing you really need in order to become a good cook is to want to do that. If all you ever learn to make is "mom's chicken soup", "those special cupcakes of yours, dear" and "auntie's famous lasagna", then you will have a repertoire to be proud of.