Confessions of a Failed Cook
On this, the day of my 8th anniversary to my lovely wife, I would like to talk about one of my failings, and one of the reasons why she must never leave me (or maybe one of the reasons why she might want to leave me). No two ways about it, I am a terrible cook.
This happens to be one of Sara’s strong suites, so it works out pretty well. One of those complimentary things that makes marriage work I guess. On the other hand, since cooking comes pretty naturally to her, I think my inability to cook is somewhat baffling to her.
When I say that I can’t cook, I don’t mean that I am unable to cook, and certainly I don’t mean that I don’t want to cook. But for some reason, I am just bad at it, and apparently cannot improve past my current sorry ability. Inevitably there is always some kind of disaster that leaves something wrong with the meal. Either something is burned, or something is under-cooked. Either an ingredient was left out, or accidentally doubled. All of it with equal likelihood. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly that I do wrong, but somehow, it always turns out wrong.
Every time I cook it always seems like a one time thing that didn’t work out. “Oh, well this burned because I had to deal with such and such at just the wrong moment,” or, “Well, of course that didn’t turn out, but there were extenuating circumstances!”, etc. But there’s always a one time thing, every time, so at some point I have to admit that it’s never going to work out.
First off, I get flustered in the kitchen. Suddenly I have terrible time management and multi-tasking abilities for no reason. It’s like I can’t manage two things at once, even though I normally don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t even seem like it should be that hard, but then again, maybe I just feel uncomfortable in the kitchen because I know it is going to turn out wrong somehow.
I honestly think that it is a culmination of all the little things that go into cooking that I just don’t have a gut feel for. Some parts of the recipe you can play around with a little bit, and some you can’t. Some measurements can be loose, some must be precise. Some things can be left to sit on the stove for a minute, and some must be watched very carefully. I consistently misjudge which is which. I don’t understand standard measuring conversions. I think I’m also impatient with cooking, which leads to me skipping tedious but important steps. I don’t take the time to chop things fine enough, or to let the pan heat up enough, or I turn the burner up too high, which doesn’t give the middle enough time to cook. I forget to set the timer, I use the wrong utensil/pot/substitution for the job, and I don’t have a fundamental feel for how long things need to microwave. Whatever it is, I think I just consistently make a thousand tiny little mistakes which culminate in some larger mistake.
But that’s the part that is frustrating to both me and Sara: why don’t I just stop doing that? All of these things seem like the kind of mistakes you make when you’re just learning to cook. With enough experience, you should be able to move past that, right? But at this point in my life, I think it’s pretty clear that I’m just not ever going to get any better.
I suppose that cooking is a skill, and it stands to reason that some people are better at some things, so there must be some people who are worse at some things. But it’s frustrating because cooking basic meals doesn’t seem like such a hard skill, and I think the vast majority of people are able to master it up to at least a certain level.
I much prefer baking, which is more like performing chemistry then cooking. Ingredients are added precisely according to a recipe, and if you always follow that recipe exactly, you will always get the same result. There is usually only limited opportunity for error: it’s not particularly dependent on timing, and the heat is constant and controlled by a computer chip in the oven. So, there’s less pressure, and consequently I enjoy it more.
I suppose all of this makes me sound like some kind of cooking half-wit who’s lucky not to stab himself in the eye while boiling water. That’s not really the case. Instead, I would say that I specialize in making delicious meals with one flaw each. (How does that go? Imperfection is beauty?) But, whether I am passable at it or not, I can safely say I do not enjoy cooking, that is for sure.
So, cooking, I think this is it. It’s just not working out. We’ve had some good times, but at the end of the day we just weren’t made for each other.
I finally realized, it’s not you, it’s me.