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This question is inspired by but unrelated to Is "Know how to cook leeks" an idiom.

I'm Dutch and the English "to cook" is a bit confusing to me. The Dutch "koken" is used in a general way as in English (I'm going to cook dinner), but also as a specific method of food preparation, namely to put something in boiling water until it's done. I think that's boiling in English.

So to me "to cook leeks" sounds at first as if someone is going to boil them, which is not how I would do it. I know the English term is more general than that.

What I'm vague about is -- does using "to cook leeks" put any limit on the method of preparing them at all, or can it mean boiling/frying/barbecuing/sauteing/grilling/chopping them to use them raw in a salad/et cetera?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In English, to "cook food" just generally means to prepare it by heating it up, without any indication as to exactly how. You wouldn't say "cook a salad", so if you want to be very clear that you aren't indicating any specific way (not even by adding heat), you can say "prepare food".

So in your specific case, if they "cook leeks", it could be any one of boiling, frying, barbecuing, sauteing, or grilling; but not chopping them to use them raw in a salad.

Similar to your Dutch word "koken", it's the same thing in Swedish, "koka" means to boil, whereas they have a different expression "laga mat" (to "prepare food", or literally "fix/repair food") which does not describe the method used.

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"to cook" implies heating the food, but no particular method. The preparation of the food (washing, peeling, cutting) is not actually considered to be cooking, but if you were to say you were cooking a meal this would naturally imply the preparation as well. In English the method of cooking would have to be stated and would replace "cook" i.e grill leeks, boil leeks, roast leeks, fry leeks etc... Also it might be worth noting that "cook" is the correct form of the verb unless you're referring to singular 3rd person, by this I mean: I cook; You cook; He/She cooks; We cook; You (plural) cook; They cook.

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Cooking is just a general term for any method involving heat. If you were roasting leeks, it would be perfectly acceptable and correct to say that you were cooking them.

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I don't know the Dutch idiom at all. To cook leeks properly, it is necessary to wash them thoroughly, as they tend to have sand. (Even worse than spinach in this regard.) Is there an implication of specialist knowledge? Careful work?

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