Awkward Confessions: Can cook, don’t cook, probably should cook…
Yesterday morning, Max requested porridge for breakfast, so I stumbled into the kitchen in a sleepy daze… and proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes or so frantically prodding various buttons on the hob, trying to work out how to turn the freaking thing on. I wish I was joking. I am not joking.
(Also not joking when I tell you how amazed I was when Terry came downstairs and revealed to me that the mystery letters, “LO” which kept appearing on the … I want to call it the “dashboard” here? I’m pretty sure it’s not a dashboard, though? It’s, like, the bit of the hob that lights up to show you which ring is currently… I want to say “heated”? Lit? A bit glowy? Where was I? Oh yeah: Terry told me that the “LO” that kept appearing apparently means “locked”. Which not only explains why I was unable to get the thing to work*, but also made me chuckle to myself because, for over three years now, every time I saw those letters appear, I’ve been reading them more like, “And, LO, sayeth the lord, the cooker is on!” But apparently not. What a rollercoaster of emotions.)
(*There’s some complicated sequence of buttons you have to press to unlock it. OK, it’s two buttons. One button. And it’s not actually a “sequence”, to be honest, you just press it. Well, WHO KNEW?)
From this, you’ll probably have gathered that I don’t do a lot of cooking.
It’s not that I CAN’T cook, you understand. I mean, if you can read, you can cook, right? I’d like to think that if I could actually bring myself to care about cooking, I’d be able to do it perfectly adequately, just like a normal person, but, then again, I’d ALSO like to think that if I decided to learn to play the guitar, say, I’d basically be Jimi Hendrix within the space of a few weeks, and the evidence on that would suggest otherwise.
When I tried to learn guitar, I gave up because I was bored. I didn’t want to have to spend hours practicing chords every day, getting callouses on my fingers, and learning songs I didn’t even like. I just wanted to immediately be able to play complicated solos amazingly well, so everyone would love me and say what an amazing guitarist I was.
Similarly, every time I decide to try to cook something from scratch, I get so bored that I stop before I’ve even gathered the ingredients. (Or, for that matter, worked out what they actually ARE, because every recipe I try always seems to call for a selection of things I’ve never heard of…) The sad, but inescapable, truth is that I don’t actually WANT to cook. I just want to eat. And the problem with THAT is that, if you’re not much of a “foodie” – and I’m NOT – it’s pretty easy, really, to eat without having to do much cooking.
every time I decide to try to cook something from scratch, I get so bored that I stop before I’ve even gathered the ingredients
Left to my own devices, for instance, I’d happily live off things like toast and jacket potatoes: in fact, as a student, living away from home for the first time, that’s exactly what I did. (Well, that and there was a KFC just a couple of blocks from my first flat. God bless it.)
Don’t get me wrong: I love food, and enjoy trying new things. It’s just that, as someone who’s not especially fussy about what I eat, I also enjoy really simple things, too – and given the choice between spending a long time cooking/clearing up and a long time doing almost ANYTHING else, the “anything else” will always win. Every time.
One of the guiding principles of my life is that if it takes longer to make it and clear up after it than it takes to eat it, I’m out. I’m absolutely mystified by why people choose to bake cakes, when there are perfectly good ones available to buy, ready made, for instance. (And often quite cheap, too, before you get all, “Shut up, Marie Antoinette,” on me. Baking isn’t always cheaper than buying…) I’m not judging, I just don’t understand it. I don’t get what’s supposed to be “fun” about it. I’m not asking.
One of the guiding principles of my life is that if it takes longer to make it and clear up after it than it takes to eat it, I’m out.
For most of my adult life, my lack of interest in cooking has been an embarrassment, but not actually a huge problem, because, luckily for me, I married a man who is good at cooking: so he cooks, I clean, and an added advantage of this arrangement is that we get to really, really annoy people who just cannot get over the fact that a MAN (A MAN!) does the bulk of the cooking in our house when there’s a woman there who SHOULD be doing it for him.
I’ve always been very defensive about this kind of judgement, because, let’s face it: it’s weird and sexist, and why should I have to do the cooking AND the cleaning, just because I’m female? It’s not like I don’t pull my weight, after all: we both work, and we both do our fair share of childcare – so what if we choose to divide the rest of the household tasks in this particular way? What would be gained by forcing the person who hates cooking to do all the cooking, while the person who doesn’t mind cooking does the cleaning – which he hates, and I don’t mind? Why not just play to our respective strengths, and live happily ever after?
So, when people would sneer at my lack of cooking skills, I would feel like they were telling me women belong in the kitchen – or just that I was lazy and /or useless, really – and I’d want to respond by pointing out all of the other things I do around the house: and, indeed, to pay for it. (And also that it’s not the 1950s any more, so SUCK IT, sexist people of the internet.)
When Max was born, though, I started to re-think my position a bit. One of the things I came to realise was that, while some of the people who’ve criticised me for not doing more cooking are, undoubtedly, just being sexist (I’m pretty sure that if Terry said he didn’t cook, no one would bat an eyelid…), not everyone is. Some people, in fact, aren’t trying to tell me cooking is a skill women should have, but rather that it’s a skill everyone should have. And, honestly, it’s hard to argue with that.
I should be able to fend for myself, rather than depending on someone else to do it for me. I should have at least SOME of the basic life skills that other people have. I am not striking a blow for feminism by not knowing how to operate the hob: I have, however, allowed myself to pretend that’s what I’m doing for way too long now, because it’s easier than admitting the truth, which is that I don’t cook because I just never bothered to learn, and now I think I should – not because it’s “a woman’s job” or whatever, but because this is yet another one of the many ways in which I’ve always felt I am Not a Real Grown Up, and maybe it’s time I did something about that, right?
So, this is me putting my intention out into the universe, making myself accountable and all that: I am going to learn how to cook. I’m probably NOT going to write much about this process, because I can’t imagine anything more boring (Other than this here post I’m writing NOW, obviously…), but I am going to do it, you see if I don’t. This is my fight song.
And for now I’m just a girl, standing in front of her cooker, asking it how on earth it actually works, but then wandering off before it can even answer her – because, BORING – but pretty soon I will be an actual, serious grown-up, who can cook things, and who, OK, will still hate it with every fibre of her being, but will at least be able to hold her head high when people ask what she’s making for dinner tonight.
And after that, I think I’ll learn guitar, because that feels like something I could really excel at.*
(* Official sources dispute this statement.)[Photo by Liubov Ilchuk on Unsplash]