How to Not Hate Cooking (Apparently)


I hate cooking.

I hate that I have to do it every day. I hate that it takes much longer to cook it than it does to eat it. I hate that by the time I have it on plates in front of my family, I’m so sour about having gone through the ordeal again that I come to the table with Grumpy Face.

I mostly hate that I suck at it.

My husband is generally quite forgiving of my various attempts, and will eat what I dare to put in front of him. (Except if it combines hot pasta with citrus, because apparently magnanimous grace can only accommodate so much.) My children, both still under 5, are unsurprisingly less forgiving.

I can loathe cooking as much as I please, but if I don’t change anything, I punish myself far better than my assortment of blunt knives ever could.

So what can I change?

I can’t just take kitchen stress leave, because nobody else in the family has both the height requirement and the availability to cook instead. Nor can we afford to get takeaways for however long my psyche decides it needs to rest.

I can’t only do meals that are quick, easy, and with minimal dishes…because after a week of nachos, American hotdogs, homemade pizza on prepackaged bases, and sausages wrapped in bread, even I’m starting to crave real food. (Although, I imagine my kids love those weeks.)

The only feasible change I can make, is for me to not suck at cooking. And that’s not going to happen naturally or fast. Educating myself would take more than just reading a recipe book. Because I’ve read a lot of those in my domestic life, and obviously I still have a problem.

I perused articles and blogs by people who were allegedly in the same place as me, once upon a time, but have learned to enjoy cooking. There were a few recommendations common among them:

Start with a clean kitchen.

I already do that, simply because mess makes me sad and tired, and makes everything feel harder. The condition of my kitchen typically dictates the condition of my headspace, so I prioritise a tidy kitchen.

Use fresh ingredients instead of dried or frozen. 

I’m gonna say no. I’ve made this mistake before. It ended up with wasted money, and wasted food. Sure, a clove of garlic tastes better before it meets the freezer, but in the game of checks and balances, a bag of frozen cloves that last for months still scores higher than unfrozen ones that grow black fuzz because you can’t get through them fast enough.

Value presentation.

I actually buy this idea, already. Being interested in all sorts of psychology and behavioural sciences, I’ve found food psychology one of the most intriguing. Food that looks better, really does taste better. (Within reason. Putting a garnish on hot citrus pasta still won’t make it palatable to some.) When I put a nicely rounded dome of rice on a plate with a scoop, the meal is much more appetising than if I let the rice fall off a large spoon to land with Rorschach abandon.

Have a good quality sharp knife, and learn to use it. 

We do have a very good knife. Just one. The blade’s the size of my smallest finger. I’ve been known to cut large vegetables with it, anyway. It was like scrubbing a deck with a toothbrush, but was just so satisfying to see a knife cut something without my having to put half my body weight behind it.

I watched a few tutorial videos on YouTube that were ostensibly teaching ‘cooking basics’, and demonstrating a few recipes. Apparently cooking basics include knowing a bunch of French words to describe the different widths to dice a carrot. And chefs Jonathan Collins and Gordon Ramsay give conflicting instruction on how to cut an onion—so do I cut the root off, or don’t I? I also notice they have pots and pans made entirely of metal, which meant they could also put them in the oven. And they often did, in their recipe demonstrations. I can’t do that, because all of my pots have a non-ovensafe component somewhere.

After watching those videos, not only do I feel no more knowledgable about cooking, but I’m dissatisfied with my kitchen things.

My thin plastic cutting boards aren’t big or pretty like their thick wooden ones with nice cutting acoustics.

My knives aren’t as shiny or sharp as their knives.

My pots and pans aren’t as application-flexible as their pots and pans.

I don’t have jars of every herb and spice known to man, like they do.

I don’t have pretty platters, like they do.

Blaming my tools would make it easy to explain my fare…if only I would forget that lack of skill probably has a large part to do with it.


(7) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    16 Dec 2016

    Personally, I found it helped to stop cooking the things I didn’t really like to eat. Because where’s the pay-off? Of course, there are things I like to eat that I just don’t have the energy for, like lasagne. (Speaking of Italian food, I recommend garlic in a jar. Keep it in the fridge and it acts like fresh garlic, without the annoyance of it trying to turn back into a plant when you’re not looking.)
    But alas, the only way to improve is to practice. I used to be dire at cooking roasts, but after doing one every fortnight for about four years, I am actually pretty good at them now. Not serve-up-to-Gran-without-a-qualm good, but good enough for us 🙂

    • Eve
      16 Dec 2016

      I’ve had seven years of ‘practice’ (counting from when I left a shared-cooking flatting environment and moved in with Husband, who was used to dining on canned soup), so evidently I’m missing a key progress ingredient. It’s an entropic exercise.

      (By the way, your “…trying to turn back into a plant when you’re not looking…” comment made me literally lol. Several times.)

      • Deborah Makarios
        17 Dec 2016

        I have yet to find a solution to the onions turning back into plants. Apart from planting them, although the last one perversely decided to turn up its toes once they were firmly planted in good soil, though it had been thriving in the cardboard box in a cold, dark, damp room. Maybe I should have left it there. Maybe this is why I’ve never really liked onions…

  • Rae
    16 Dec 2016

    Deborah is right… practice. I am sure Gordon Ramsay wasn’t born cooking like that. I found it fun, when I was newly wed, experimenting with new recipes. Years later, the hardest part was not the cooking itself but having to decide what to cook. Particularly when there was no one dish (other than afore-mentioned roast) which everyone would eat, and no matter what I made, somebody would whinge about it.

    • Eve
      16 Dec 2016

      Unfortunately, with the exception of roasts, the meals I enjoy are the ones that my family don’t. Like Thai Green Curry. Husband tolerates it, but the kids don’t. They’ll snub anything that’s not bread or potato.

      • Rebekah
        17 Dec 2016

        Seems to be a mothers curse. The odd palate out. Which is cosmic irony considering that the mother is also usually the cook.

    • Deborah Makarios
      17 Dec 2016

      We’ve got around the decision-fatigue part of it by having a two-week cycle of meals. Short enough not to have to master too many things, but long enough not to be eating the same thing every night. Although I’d happily eat souvlaki every night – if someone else was doing all the prep work!

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