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.

picnic foodI’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]

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COMMENTS
  • Laura

    REPLY

    Ah, sounds like you’ve got one of those induction hobs. Don’t blame yourself, they’re a nightmare. I cook for myself all the time on a normal gas hob, but when I tried to work my friend’s induction hob (she’d just had a baby and I was trying to help out), I struggled for half an hour then had to ask her for help! No idea why they’re so complicated!

    November 26, 2020
  • Myra Boyle

    REPLY

    This made me laugh, thank you 😂😂😂❤️

    November 26, 2020
  • lalie

    REPLY

    Just in case Max happens to be a little bit like MY child, don’t start your resolutions by cooking for him. Really don’t. Nothing more depressing that all these efforts ending in the bin because your fussy monster of a child point blank refuses to eat anything you make. Or anything from the likes of Cook, not just your cooking that is to blame!

    I CAN cook. I just don’t want to. It’s my husband’s job too!
    The most famous chefs are male, why should cooking be a woman’s role!

    November 26, 2020
  • Karen Champ

    REPLY

    This is exactly my life too! I find cooking so unbelievably dull and completely not worth it considering the range of foods available to buy. I had a disagreement about this exact thing with a colleague yesterday who apparently finds it absurd that anyone eat pasta sauce from a jar rather than making their own. “It only takes ten minutes to make sauce!” he said. My response was that that’s 9 minutes and 45 seconds longer than opening the jar. And jar sauce from Aldi is like 50p so I’m not living some mad life of luxury here. I simply do not care enough about the slight difference in flavour to bother spending my time on it.

    November 26, 2020
  • Melissa

    REPLY

    I’m the opposite, I cannot stand cleaning, but I love cooking (and eating). I’ve been feeling I’m failing feminism by doing almost all the cooking in our house, so interesting to read your perspective. Good luck with the cooking.

    November 26, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    I don’t love cooking either but I do love food, and if something tastes nicer homemade (and there ARE certain cakes or sauces that taste a lot better than storebought, unfortunately) then I will go to the bother of making it. Sometimes. The other thing is I like to stay away from preservatives and things in the ingredient list with only numbers if possible, which, sigh, is nearly impossible with storebought items. I don’t personally think everyone needs to know how to cook, these days you can buy so many things that are ready to eat or heat-and-eat which only require knowing how to use a microwave. But by all means if it makes you feel better about yourself then go for it 😀

    November 27, 2020
  • Katie Davis

    REPLY

    I can cook (like you say, everyone can cook) but I lose my mojo.

    I’ve found recipe boxes a godsend – you choose what you want to eat, and they send you a box with all the ingredients you need and a step by step recipe – with pictures!

    I use Gousto – it’s a good way of trying things without ending up with a ton of exotic ingredients going off in the back of a cupboard if you don’t like it.

    Good luck – and please do let us know how you get on x

    November 27, 2020
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    This could so be me! I am not a fan of cooking. Stephen does all the cooking in our house while I do the washing-up, etc. Plus I’m a vegetarian and he isn’t, so it makes more sense for him to be the chef. He’s a great cook!

    My mum also hated cooking – she once bought a book called ‘The I Hate to Cook Book’ – but she does have a few nice signature dishes; lasagne and moussaka, for example. I can make some nice meals, but Stephen can stand one night only of eating vegetarian. Before I met him I was happily living on salad, corn cakes and humous!

    November 27, 2020
  • Olivia

    REPLY

    Ahahah i am THE ABSOLUT SAME!!!
    But I am a solo mom and now that my baby is growing up I HAVE to cook and it the most scary/annoying thing ever…
    I really hope my son will not starved to death 😅

    November 27, 2020
  • May

    REPLY

    I’ve enjoyed baking since I was a child, it’s always been a great way to decompress for me. Most of my life I only knew how to cook the simplest meals, but a couple years ago my mum went through some health issues that didn’t allow her to do much, so I had to take up some real cooking and I’ve really been enjoying. It’s just me, my kitchen, my ingredients and a good podcast. Surprisingly it’s helped me a lot in a way I didn’t imagine, I’ve struggled with disordered eating my whole life but since I picked up cooking I’ve been daring to try new things I never would have before. Trying a new dish is terrifying to me, but trying a new recipe is fun and exiting.
    Store bought products are so incredibly expensive where I live that it’s genuinely cheaper to make things at home (#DevelopingWorldLife?), plus I get to choose what goes into them, which is important when your household includes a person with disordered eating and a person with dietary restrictions. You wouldn’t believe the amount of trans fats cookies can have for absolutely no reason.

    All that said…. There most definitely days where I can’t be bothered. It’s past with oil and seasoning for us those days

    November 27, 2020
  • Lucie

    REPLY

    Hi Amber,
    Just here to say I can cook (and I do from time to time because kids have to eat even when daddy is not at home), but my husband loves to cook and does most of the cooking in our home. I love it, he cooks so well. He loves it, it makes him relax and feel like he did something nice for us (or some guests when it’s not COVID lockdown, obviously…).
    So I definitely can cook and do, but if I am alone at home, I basically never cook for myself. As you say, there are a million other things I would rather do.

    November 29, 2020
  • Jacqueline

    REPLY

    I don’t particularly like cooking, but find that it’s a necessary evil. I do like baking though. I’m not a great fan of cleaning, and would rather cook than clean.

    November 29, 2020
  • Maria

    REPLY

    I’m torn when I say I can cook, because what I cook is just the most basic dishes known to humanity: mushrooms, zucchini, eggplants, green beans etc., the most annoying part is washing and cleaning them, the cooking is the easiest for me. Also basic things as meat, fish… You just take the piece, slap it onto the pan and bam, you cook it. Does that mean I can cook, as in chef Ramsey cooking skills? Lol no, I wish! So yeah, when I say I can cook, it means I can actually do the bare minimum of cooking…

    November 30, 2020
  • dublinerInDeutschland

    REPLY

    I remember my Mum trying to teach me to cook growing up but I wasn’t interested and a feminist teenager thought that if I didn’t learn that I wouldn’t end up with a man expecting me to cook. It’s only as I’ve gotten older I realised like you said that cooking is a useful life skill for everyone to have. Really it’s mainly about practice, the more you practice cooking the more it’ll come naturally. Good luck, I’m interested to hear how it’s going!

    February 23, 2021
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