08/04/2010 01:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Intuitive Cooking: Tips to Get You Started

We read a lot about intuitive eating. Just as important, and the first step in the process, is intuitive cooking. But it's hard in our world. We're pressed for time, and accustomed to looking outside ourselves to the experts -- the celebrity chefs, the cooking show stars, the charismatic cookbook authors -- for the latest word on what to buy and how to cook it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for education in culinary and nutritional topics; it's how I make my living. At some point, though, it's exhilarating to rely on an internal compass rather than external directions. It's not like celebrity chefs or we simple food writers have cornered the market on cooking. Food preparation is the most natural, instinctive activity in the world, right up there with nest-building and baby-making. And I believe it's as important as intuitive eating in terms of our relationship with food.

Cooking by availability and intuition -- shopping the market, choosing produce that looks fresh and appealing, and then combining it with ingredients on hand, according to taste and personal preference -- is perhaps the oldest and most authentic way of food prep. My southern grandmothers cooked this way, without recipes or elaborate meal planning. They simply gathered vegetables from their garden, combined them with ingredients on hand, and added a pinch of this and a dash of that until it tasted good. At the end, it was invariably a feast.

Cooking without a recipe requires only a little skill, plus a lot of imagination, and a willingness to be bold and inventive. These five steps will get you started:

Intuitive Cooking: Tips to Get You Started

Armed with a recipe you love, head to your favorite market, and be willing to be bold. At the very worst, you'll discover what doesn't work -- and that's a valuable life lesson in itself.