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I don't know how to cook. I never learned. I have a HUGE mental block that kicks in whenever I see a recipe that requires I put more than two ingredients together. And a disgruntled impatience with the idea of a meal taking longer to prepare than it does to eat. The origin of all this, though, was growing up in the 70's, when women's lib was blossoming full flower. It was a matter of principle to me not to prioritize traditionally female skills. And my mom, who was more interested in law school than cooking herself, didn't worry too much about this gap in my education.

For the record, I was equally disinterested in my father's attempts to teach me how to change the oil in my car. I was an intellectual.

When Mom got busy in law school, my dad took over the cooking duties. Before he got married, he was a cook in the National Guard, so you can imagine the sort of stuff he made for us. He didn't bother to teach me to cook, either.

How did I eat once I didn't have the college mess hall to feed me? It helps not being a fussy eater, but lots of ways, really. You wouldn't believe what comes in cans and boxes and takes a couple minutes to nuke in the microwave. Later, there were girlfriends who cooked (I always dated women who could cook). And when I lost twenty pounds a few years back, it was in part because my mom had been on a crockpot cooking kick the year before.

I occasionally ate meals out, although I rarely relied on that. It was fattening. I did learn how to prepare a few things myself, like pasta, and my father's French Toast (which gave me heart palpitations, so I didn't make it very often). But see above re: two-ingredient cooking.

As I get older, though, I am wanting to take more charge of what goes into the food I eat, and that means learning a skill I never learned. "Never learned" is a sweeping generalization, I've found, though. Earlier this month, I decided to try my hand at Actual Cooking with a 17-ingredient beef stew. I actually knew quite a bit more about what I was doing than I imagined I did. You don't get to be [bleep] years old and not pick up a few tricks here and there.

I'm not saying the stew is particularly good, but I think it's more the recipe than me. Next time, I'm leaving out the onions, tomatoes, and oregano. But it was improved with some chopped chili peppers thrown in. And in the effort expended vs. outcome received department, I made a dozen portions to finish up.

My next experiment this past weekend was more successful: a black bean veggie wrap. I still strongly resent the time expenditure. As for Ingredient Overload, I try to concentrate on one line of the recipe at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Next up, baked fish, I think. And then mamculuna's Dharma Shala Soup.



( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
The worst thing about a lot of recipes is that 'serves twelve' is too much even if you plan on freezing two-thirds of it. Try looking for recipes for two or four with no more than seven or eight ingredients. It not that the simpler recipes are any less good. In fact it's easier to guess what you can safely leave out or substitute in. As you suspect, that 17-ingredient stew may be less than stellar when done perfectly.

I don't cook for myself every night, but I'm glad I had some early experience and I'm not afraid of doing it.
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:06 pm (UTC)
I think knowing what you can (or should) leave out or add in is a trial-and-error skill. One that I actually have more instinct for than I presumed I did. But time will tell how much.
(no subject) - cactuswatcher - Jan. 28th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 28th, 2014 12:48 am (UTC)
Yay for learning to like something new! I think of cooking as painting with flavors (and don't mind at all using a recipe that lets me paint by the numbers--but the truth is, you have to taste it to see it!) Hope you like the soup.
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
The soup sounded yummy when I saw it on FB - and for once my eyes didn't glaze over at the ingredient list. Usually, I see a list and I'm out of there.
Jan. 28th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC)
Good for you!!

Remember atpo_cooks. There are several in there that aren't horrible to try.

Might I suggest this one if you like couscous?
Jan. 28th, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
yes, atpo-cooks has some very nice recipes. That salad Ann suggests is easy to cut in half and there's very little to worry about cooking. Lots of ingredients without the worries!
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 28th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 28th, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
My mom was an excellent cook and I learned the basics one summer when she broke her wrist.

Unfortunately I married a guy who does not like food really, so I rarely cooked. Now I am on a very limited diet due to health issues so cooking right now is just basic chicken and pork.

Artist sister is an amazing gourmet cook. She loves the whole creative aspect of it.
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
Art and creativity always require commitment. I always admire the artistes of cuisine. I don't think I'll become one of them, but it's not because I couldn't be, in theory.
Jan. 28th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
I never minded the cooking part, it's the cleaning up that I wish could be consigned to the house elves.
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
I know, I had to run the dishwasher TWICE last week. That never happens to me. And I didn't care for that time drain, either.

; )
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:38 am (UTC)
well good for you. I love cooking. Good luck with the fish
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
One thing that's amusing me is discovering what things I already have the pots. pans, and gadgets for and what things I don't. I think broiling will be an issue, but I have bake pans and frying pans and boiling pots and a food processor and I've had them for years.

Mostly unused. Not sure when I got them, or how.

The crock pot is a recent hand-me-down.
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jan. 28th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 28th, 2014 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jan. 28th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 28th, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jan. 28th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 28th, 2014 11:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Jan. 29th, 2014 01:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ponygirl2000 - Jan. 29th, 2014 02:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 29th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 28th, 2014 05:26 am (UTC)
I love to cook, and I am a pretty good one, if I do say so. I think that if you start with a good recipe and get some practice, then you can get more creative. My advice? Be brave, and just go for it.
I love looking at cookbooks, I get some great ideas from them.
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
I am apparently still able to get overwhelmed by recipes. I will have to start VERY simple.
Jan. 28th, 2014 09:40 am (UTC)
My grandmother, who lived with us, was a brilliant cook but she didn't like other people in the kitchen so I never learnt from her and basically taught myself. I only do easy things but I do enjoy it now. I used to follow recipes religiously, but now, and with a bit more confidence, I tend to fling together in a stew or some one pot dish. Usually it works and my husband is very long suffering :)
Jan. 28th, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
A long suffering eater is a good thing for a cook. I was always That Person, because I relied on others to do the cooking. And unless you're a real tool, complaining about another person's cooking under those circumstances is highly ungracious. Usually, though, it was all fine.
Jan. 29th, 2014 02:08 am (UTC)
I often listen to podcasts while cooking so it feels like my brain is engaged while my hands are busy. I find cooking quite soothing sometimes - I'm exerting control over the elements!
Jan. 29th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... I tend to be a "I like the quiet" person, especially when I need to concentrate, but after I know what I'm doing, that could be the excuse to turn my tablet from a recipe book into a teevee.
(no subject) - ponygirl2000 - Jan. 30th, 2014 01:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 30th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ponygirl2000 - Jan. 30th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 30th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ponygirl2000 - Jan. 30th, 2014 10:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 30th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ponygirl2000 - Jan. 31st, 2014 01:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Jan. 31st, 2014 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )