I divide the world into two classes of people: those who like to cook and can, and those who do not and can’t. For better or for worse, I am among in the latter.
It’s not that I don’t like to eat, because I certainly do. It’s just that I don’t love to eat, and this ambivalence towards food makes it hard for me to understand why anyone would want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that will be consumed in twenty minutes.
I know, I know, for many — dare I say most — food is love and large quantities of both are dished out with the utmost devotion in households every day. Multitudes of cooks take great care and huge amounts of pleasure in preparing meals for their families. And because I love my family above all else, I endeavored to become a part of this hallowed group. Mind you, I did not aspire to be a gourmet cook, only a good one. Alas, it was to no avail. I am the anti-Julia Child.
It May Be Genetic
I have a theory about the cooking gene in my family. After much soul-searching and, with admittedly no scientific basis, I have decided that it weakened and then disappeared. My grandmother, you see, was a superb cook. My mother, though not as adept in the kitchen as my grandmother, achieved good-cook status, making her own special dishes that are family favorites to this day. I, on the other hand, must have been AWOL when the cooking gene was passed down, and I remain to this day without a scintilla of cooking talent.
The Woes of Cooking
Signs of the missing cooking gene emerged early in my life. When I was young any attempts by my mother and grandmother to introduce me to the ways of the kitchen usually ended badly. There were incidents and accidents that involved burnt pots, inedible meals, lost tempers, and in one case, a visit from the fire department.
This lack of culinary skills followed me into adulthood and its drawbacks became apparent when I cooked my first dinner for my then-boyfriend-now-husband. The menu was simple enough for even my meager skills: roast chicken, baked potatoes, and string beans. What could go wrong? Plenty when you set the temperature 100 degrees too high and the chicken comes out of the oven with not an ounce of juice left in its tiny charred body. We ordered in pizza and my husband still tells everyone that I treated him like a Greek god that night because I presented him with a burnt offering.
Since we could not live on love alone, I did acquire some cooking skills along the way. I learned to consult the experts, but quickly realized that the Art of French Cooking offered recipes for disaster in my hands. Instead, I turned to Cooking for Dummies, Simple Meals for Simple Cooks, Microwave Cooking Made Easy, and my all-time favorite and the one guaranteed to keep the fire trucks away, Salads and More Salads. It also helped that my husband is an excellent cook (self-preservation at work?), and I can happily report that our children grew up enjoying tasty and healthy meals.
It’s Lonely as a Flop
I do have to admit, however, that my lack of cooking skills and interest in food in general has spilled over into my social life. I love my foodie friends, but I frequently find myself at a loss to participate in conversations that revolve around the advantages of a vertical roasting wok, or which whisk is better for beating eggs. I have never watched the Food Network, nor do I feel comfortable referring to Rachael Ray and Paula Deen by their first names, though I guess it is OK to call Emeril “Emeril.”
Still, my friends are most gracious about my well-known lack of cooking skills and always include me and my husband in their gourmet pot luck dinners. As my best friend confided, “We can always count on you to bring the salad.”