When I was still living at home, Mom was notorious for not liking to cook. I actually remember a time when I was hanging out over at Erica’s house, and I got a call from my mother.
Mom: I’m cooking dinner tonight.
Mom: Yeah. (Intense pause)
Me: Oh. OH.
The world’s rotation slowed for just that moment. I told my gracious hosts what was going on.
Them: You need to go home right now.
And I did. And I always will, if I find that Mom is cooking and expecting me. IT’S JUST THAT SPECIAL KIND OF OCCASION.
Love you, Mom. Your cooking is fantastic when you choose to supply it.
When I got into high school, I turned into a cooking fool for a short time. I had developed not just one, but TWO eating disorders (Cause I’m an overachiever!) and found that I could gain pleasure from cooking for the ones I loved, even if I hardly ever ate any of it. Once my issues were brought into the light, I was forced to try to NOT be anorexic and bulemic, and all of a sudden, my intense urge to cook died. In fact, I avoided it all together and anything else that had to do with food. I didn’t even eat in front of other people for months upon months. And, practice makes permanent, so though I can now eat in front of others, I continued in a trend of microwaveable foods and raw produce, deciding that with everything else on my metaphorical plate, I simply did not have the time to push my boundaries any farther.
This was actually advantageous when I was in a dorm situation in college, since the “food” was either precooked and served at the dining hall, or heated up in my microwave. As my friends groaned in memory of warm, home-cooked meals, I ate my meals of peanuts and lettuce with the great equanimity of habit. However, once I got to my super-duper special scholarship hall, things changed. These women immediately set out to try and domesticate me. I was required, by house rules, to make a meal on a regular basis for a WHOLE SEVEN PEOPLE, and there were plenty of evil glares if the meal was not quite up to par. Okay, that’s unfair. Most girls don’t glare like that, since it isn’t very sneaky. I could just feel the disappointment radiating off of them.
So, the next year, I cited my personal issues to get myself put in an independent kitchen, which meant that I had to cook for myself and myself alone. I did that for the next three years, and it’s remarkable how little people argue with you if you use the “mental illness” defense. Nothing like a silver lining, folks. I got the crazy, I get the perks.
However, it’s important to clarify what I mean when I say “cook.” I’ve been informed that it is not the standard, acceptable, Martha-Stewart definition. I cooked cheesy tortillas in the microwave. I cooked tea in the microwave. Sometimes, I’d get intense and actually cook up a couple of eggs on the stove. If I was feeling JUST CRAZY domestic, I would actually wash and tear up my lettuce, instead of just eating a head of it like a big, hand-held salad. I earned the nickname “Rabbit” for good reason, I suppose. It got to the point that women I barely knew would come into the kitchen, actually see me using the stove, and would have to stop and ask if I was feeling okay.
Honestly, I was completely okay with this situation. First of all, it made it really easy to go grocery shopping. My staples were tortillas, cheese, salsa, and lettuce. Still are, really. I can survive on that for at least a week. When I feel like being something of a grown-up, I actually buy milk and cereal for breakfast. Oh, and coffee. Coffee is a recent addiction, but I have found a new and life-long companion in it. My friends are astounded that I can shop so very quickly, but they don’t understand how easy it is when you have my single-minded drive. Meat, soda, salad dressing, bread, frozen goods…nope. Not necessary. I am not easily tempted by variety. In fact, I tend to just find it overwhelming. It’s gotten to the point that some friends bring over food to leave with me that they know I won’t eat, just so they’ll have something to eat when they come over other than a microwaved tortilla and an old pickle.
Second of all, when you are as pitiful as I am in the kitchen, people tend to feel moved to cook for you, you poor rustic heathen you. So, I’ve been getting randomly fed for years, like a smelly stray kitten that turns up on the back porch and is too entertaining to turn away. Or at least I think that’s why I keep getting invited for dinner.
THIRD of all, do you have ANY IDEA how much patience it takes to cook? My friend offered to make me some boxed curry once, but after she mentioned that it took a WHOLE 5 minutes to cook, I was all for abandoning the society that could produce such a time-wasting food and heading back to nature, where I belonged. My rabbit brethren would welcome me, I’m sure.
Pictured above: Me, naked, and not having shaved for a while.
Still, I have definitely improved, if you can call it that. At this point in my life, I actually have an apartment that I share with a roommate, and a good-sized, fully-stocked kitchen. Because I have grown to actually appreciate the value of cooked food, I have forced myself to expand my horizons and try cooking again, if only so that when I try to adopt some day, I’ll be able to say that I can cook more than a piece of toast for my poor children. So far, I have remastered both Hamburger Helper (without the hamburger) AND boxed rice. I even baked some jalapeno cheesy cornbread the other day, though the stress and mess involved were hardly worth the somewhat mushy result.
Which leads me to another reason I don’t like to cook: there is no way for me to do it without making a ridiculous amount of mess. Take the cornbread situation, for example. I had planned to bake it the morning before the dinner party for which it was destined, but due to a variety of distractions, like shiny things and broken-down cars, I didn’t get it done, and was faced with a pile of ingredients and no hope 30 minutes before it would be time to eat. In a frantic rush, I hurried to Brownie’s house, where the dinner would be held, and through myself on her mercies. She kindly offered me the use of her kitchen and her own abilities, but I don’t think she was prepared for the kind of complication she had invited into her home. First, I pulled out my brand-new, adult bag of cornmeal, and discovered that the milk I’d brought with it had sweated all over the flimsy bag, leaving it torn and poofing all over the place. So, I grabbed a bowl and tried to just dump the cornmeal into it before the bag disintegrated completely. The bowl wasn’t big enough, but I filled it until it created a pretty little cornmeal mountain, which I admired while wondering what the hell I’d do with the rest. I decided that if I just started making the cornbread, the mountain would shrink, and then I could build it up again with the remainder of the bagged cornmeal. I resignedly scooped cups of it out of the bowl, liberally powdering the countertop, before Brownie began to realize how inept I was.
Brownie: What are you DOING?
Me: The bag broke.
Brownie: The bag…?
Me: Yeah. The cornmeal. The bag got torn by the milk. (Knowing there was no point in even trying to be clean about it now, I miserably continued to try to shovel cornmeal into the new bowl. Brownie continued to retain the patience of a saint.)
Brownie: Why don’t we just PUTTHATBOWLINTHESINK before you scoop anymore, okay? Yes, that’ll work a little better. See?
Me: There’s no point, Brownie. This is how I am. This is the person you’ve befriended and brought into your home. You may as well go on without me, you poor, trusting fool.
Brownie: Okay, what can I do to help? You give me some stuff to mix, and we’ll get this going.
Me: Well, you have to put the wet stuff in one bowl, which is the milk and the oil and the OH MY GOSH THE EGGS. (I had actually had my roommate go buy more that day, for just this purpose. But I left them at home.)
Brownie: I’ve got eggs.
Me: How many?
Me: I need 4. (I looked at her with all of my misery and sorrow in my eyes. How could they have relied on me to cook? I had wanted so badly to be a big girl…)
Brownie: I’ll borrow one from a neighbor.
Me:…People actually do that?
Me: I also need regular flour. Forgot that too. And cheese. (I could almost hear Brownie’s eye begin twitching at this point.)
Pictured above: Me, as the Black Hole of Ineptitude, sucking in everything that you hold dear.
However, in the magical world of Brownie where you actually know your neighbors and can borrow a cup of sugar from them without wondering what else they might have put in there, cornbread was accomplished.
Pictured above: Sugar? Or powdered roofies?
And it was mushy. But if you piled enough butter and jelly on it, that was all you could really taste, and bread is just a platform for conveying jelly from jar to mouth anyway.
After dinner, I suggested that at some point, I really ought to provide a home-cooked meal for all the friends who’ve been so generous to me. They looked at me like I was joking. Or maybe like I OUGHT to be joking, if I had any sense left after eating so many old leftovers. But I’m gonna do it. It may just be beans and apples, or home-cooked Papa Murphy’s, but it’s going to happen.
Stupid, accomplished, adult friends. Serve them right if I fed them like I usually feed myself…then they’d cherish the hamburger-less Hamburger Helper I’ve provided them. They’ll rue the day!!!!!!! Muahahahhahahahaaaa!!! Ahahahaha! BWAHAHAHHAHAA—cough, cough…
No, really. Let me cook for you.