>The Joy of (Not) Cooking

>I just finished watching the movie “Julie & Julia.” Decent movie, other than the fact the two lead female characters love to cook.


I’m not much of a cooker. It’s a tad ironic as I’m a huge eater. I love over-buttered mashed potatoes as much as the next person; a perfectly crispy-top creme brulee is my best friend; and a week without bacon is a bad one in my book. Compound the irony with “Top Chef” being one of my favorite shows, and my disdain for cooking doesn’t make much sense.

As I’ve lived by myself and grew as an adult, I’ve learned to cook. Basics food, yes; delicious, complicated meals, not so much. I’ve progressed from my college days of cooking boxed mashed potatoes to now adding fresh herbs to my hand-peeled and mashed petite red potatoes. But do I like to cook? Not really.

A few of my friends are self-proclaimed lovers of cooking. I’ve been lucky that two of my roommates were in that category. In my final year of college, my then-roommate was patient enough to teach me a few things. His mother was a magnificent cook, opening up her own restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla. If out of sheer desperate circumstances the producers of the TV show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” were to ask me about the best thing I ever ate, I’d say it was his mom’s vegetable sandwich, hands down. Being the benefactor of her son’s talent suited me just fine. After he witnessed me adding dry pasta to a room-temperature pot of water, he knew he’d had to start at the rudimentary level with me.

He taught me the “secret” to a well-cooked salmon was to sear it first and then put it in the oven. He even taught me the basics of coffee making. With travels in Italy and France under my belt, if there’s one thing I really appreciate, it’s a really, really well-brewed cup of coffee. He taught me how to use a French press, aka, the only way to brew coffee. He taught me how to buy good beans, how to simply know if your espresso-to-boiled-water ratio was just right by solely looking at the color of the mixture. He even showed me how adding orange peels to a French-pressed coffee could totally give it a beautiful kick of flavor.

And my last roommate I owe a lot to as well. Without him, I’d be at the drive-thru window of the nearby Boston Market most every night of the week. After part-time stints in the restaurant business during his high school and college days, he accumulated a lot of cooking knowledge. Beyond that, he really, really, really loved to cook. Even if he’d a had a long day at work (he was a general contractor in which long days can get longer when on a job site), he’d somehow be able to whip out a three-course meal that night.

I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point. I would love to be like my mom when I become a mother — work a long day and still be able to prepare a delicious meal for the kids. My mom is one of the best cooks I know. Her food is fantastic, always fresh and completely varied. No meal is ever the same. I’m no traditionalist, but I would see myself a disappointment if, as a woman and mother, I couldn’t cook a good meal every night for my family.

I’m not sure why I don’t enjoy cooking. I’ve analyzed the possibilities, but I’m not sure any are easily remedied. I don’t particularly enjoy the labor that goes into cooking a meal. For example, I really don’t like peeling and chopping onions or peeling and dicing garlic. Perhaps it’s those are monotonous tasks don’t engage me. Nor do I really like the exact science of heating and physically cooking things. I wish heating a piece of protein had more of a grace period or forgiving nature to it; if it did, a lot more of my food would appear less over- or undercooked. They might actually be edible.

Perhaps I don’t like cooking for a very simple reason: I’m just not good at it. It makes sense. I mean, I don’t like swimming because I’m no good at it, I don’t like playing “Call of Duty” online because I can barely hit a target, and maybe — just maybe — I don’t like cooking because I’m pretty awful at it.

I’m proud to say I’ve mastered a pretty capable beef bourguignon this year, and it’s become a staple at dinner parties (yes, more irony as I’ve hosted a few dinner parties where I’ve contributed a dishes of my own). With the right tools and quality ingredients, my mashed potatoes are second to none. But a cook I am? Still, the answer is no.

People tell me that I shouldn’t fret, that cooking — good cooking — will come as a necessity, if for no other reason. They tell me I’ll learn to love cooking and that I will cook many a meals for my children and family. Maybe it’s like gardening. I think it’s pretty unexciting to garden, but maybe it’ll grow on me. Just like cooking will.
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