For years, I said I couldn’t cook. This wasn’t really accurate, though, because what I meant was I didn’t cook. I always worked outside the home, and cooking simply wasn’t very high on my priority list. There was a period of a year or two when Tom worked only a mile from the house, meaning he got home well before I did, and often had dinner waiting. That was pretty awesome. But typically dinner was my responsibility, and I relied on packaged products or quick and easy recipes with minimal ingredients.
When I started working from home in 2010, I vowed I would “learn to cook.” This actually meant I’d bother to find recipes and acquire ingredients and turn them into tasty, home-cooked delights.
This hasn’t happened yet, but it could. I remain hopeful.
I’ve never understood people who claim they can’t cook. The internet is full of recipes and video tutorials. All you have to do is take a minute to read them, follow the instructions, and–voila!–food.
But then I remember math, and consider things from a different perspective. People claim math isn’t that hard, because numbers are clearly defined and behave in certain ways, and as long as you follow the steps, it always turns out. I beg to differ. Numbers are sneaky, slippery, tricksy things, and we have a longstanding animosity dating back to third grade when I was forced to learn multiplication and fractions. But if I can have some form of (undiagnosed and possibly imaginary) mathematical dyslexia, I guess people can be culinarily dyslexic too.
While I was once known to look into my pantry and sigh, “All I see here are ingredients, but nothing I can actually eat,” I do now cook, and not too badly.
I also bake, though I’m currently forbidden to do so. Tom is watching what he eats, and when I make six dozen cookies, it’s up to him to eat five and a half dozen of them, because I’m a gastric bypass patient and can only tolerate a small amount of sugar.
I don’t do anything fancy. I see friends’ posts of gourmet meals they’ve prepared, with exotic ingredients and complicated presentations. I’m not going to be seeking out specialty markets to procure organic saffron or truffles or imported albino hummingbird eggs or whatever foodies do. But I can produce above-average meals, and in a pinch can peruse the pantry and freezer and come up with some combination of the available options we won’t mind eating.
My dinners will never look like this. At all.
The problem is there are only two of us. While broiling two steaks and baking two potatoes isn’t difficult, most meals end up being large enough to feed a dozen starving Teamsters. If I’m making soup or chili, I learned long ago to just start out using the enormous soup kettle, because by the time I get done adding everything I want in there, I’m going to need that kind of capacity.
This means leftovers. For days. And days. At first, I felt badly about feeding Tom the same thing four days in a row, but he swears he doesn’t mind. He’s thrifty, and the comfort of knowing we’re not wasting perfectly good food makes him happy. Once I got past the feeling I was somehow failing by not cooking fresh meals every single day, I could totally get behind this concept, because it means I might only have to cook twice a week.
Slow cooker full of Santa Fe Chicken. This usually takes care of dinner for about four days, until the risk of botulism outweighs the bother of cooking something else.
While I’ve realized I most certainly can cook, I’d still rather not. Even though I don’t have to brave the Out to go to work, I do still have a full workday with managing the editorial department, all the managerial admin stuff, and editing for my clients. When I meet my goals for the day, I’d much rather crochet and watch Netflix than trash my kitchen making dinner.
The other challenge is finding things we’ll both eat. Tom prefers lots of meat, rice or potatoes, and if vegetables are nowhere to be found, he’s 100% fine with that. I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like, or a bread, and I prefer most dishes without any meat at all. I’m happy with peas, artichokes, olives, mushrooms (all of them), eggplant, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, or avocados, all things that make Tom pinch his nose and flee to the other end of the house.
The latest “holy crap, how many days will we be eating this” situation involves ham. Tom can’t pass up a bargain, and he found a Smithfield spiral-cut ham on sale for roughly half price. It is a 12-pound ham. Twelve. Pounds. Google tells me the proper ratio when serving ham is 3/4 pound per guest. My handy-dandy calculator on my phone tells me this works out to 16 people. For the two of us, that would mean eight days’ worth of ham. I know I could freeze some of it, but I hate our freezer. It’s ridiculously small and the compartments are stupid, and it always feels too full. Plus, Mozzie is afraid of it, and every time I open the freezer drawer, he runs from the room.
Fortunately, I exist largely on sandwiches, and I’m doing my best to work my way through Hamzilla. The downside is it makes me thirsty, and my kidneys are starting to wonder what the hell is going on.
What about you? Can you cook? Do you enjoy it? Do you have favorite dishes or kitchen tricks?
And now…time for a sandwich. I still have about eight pounds of ham to eat.