I don't know why I'm the last person on the planet to realize this, but you can learn a lot about cooking by watching somebody else who knows what they're doing. I can credit finally nailing a tortilla directly to the hour I spent a few months ago watching closely as Javier made his version. Tonight my friend and neighbor Tamlin invited me down to her house to try a couple of new recipes she'd dug up on the Internet, and in watching her I learned a few choice tricks about how to prepare a dish. Linguine with clam sauce, for example. A common dish, perhaps, but not one I'd ever deign to try on my own. When the pasta was done she didn't drain it, as I would have done, but rather used tongs to pull it out of the water before plopping it directly into the cooking clam sauce. "You use the water from the pasta to help dilute the sauce," she told me. Oh. Who knew? Likewise, I never knew you could make a marinade in a gallon Ziploc bag. But she did, and threw six half artichokes into the back, shook it up and let it sit for half an hour to marinade. I always thought you had to marinade in the refrigerator, and for hours, in a separate dish.
Small realizations, perhaps, but valuable in the long run. I suppose that's why cooking shows are so popular. Maybe I should get cable.