Watching her partner prepare dinner, an acquaintance of mine said, “I don’t know how you can find any aspect of cooking fun.” She, needless to say, did not particularly enjoy cooking.
This did get me to thinking, though—why do I like cooking?
Because there are definitely cooking tasks I’m not particularly fond of. I have a friend who adores all the meticulous aspects, like chopping things finely and removing meat from bones. Exactly the sort of fiddly or slightly disgusting tasks I don’t care for. I also don’t like the super-boring ones, like stirring something “constantly” for 10 minutes or more.
So when it comes to that sort of thing, I have a few tactics to cope:
- Don’t do it. Like, I don’t make risotto—it requires too much stirring—and I don’t peel and seed tomatoes, because hello? Who has that kind of time, and what’s wrong tomato peel and seeds anyway?
- Buy it already done. Your boneless chicken, your deveined shrimp, your peeled and chopped squash, your frozen chopped onions.
- Find a more efficient way to do it. The Cuisinart is one of my best friends for grating and chopping, and lot of things turn out to be easier to peel or skin after they’re cooked, so I wait and do it then.
But despite all these avoidance manoeuvre, I really do like cooking. I do all the cooking home, because I want to. I cook just for myself, too. (And I don’t mean a grilled cheese sandwich; I mean a proper full meal with all the food groups.) I just don’t relate to people who find it always tastes better “if someone else made it”.
I think I’ve nailed down why.
It’s all about control.
I am, possibly, a bit of a control freak. And cooking for myself is the very best way to ensure that I eat nothing but what I want to eat. And much as I love some forms of convenience, I don’t like that to go too far. I don’t like pre-seasoned, pre-assembled, pre-cooked stuff. I want to do that. My flavors, my combinations of ingredients, cooked as much as I think appropriate.
Really, cooking is pretty zen—at least the way I do it. I crank up my tunes, I pull out the recipe or recipes of the day (all planned out in advance), I gather my ingredients (all purchased ahead), I make dinner. Sure, I may get the occasional stress bubble when the main course and both side dishes all need something done at the same time, or something isn’t quite working, but that isn’t typical.
It’s a mini-accomplishment every day.
I’m not curing cancer, but at least I’ve created something decent from scratch yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I like to eat.
Back to only cooking what I want to eat: I’m usually looking forward to eating what I’m making. One of the many, many reasons I could not be a chef is that those guys (they are mostly guys) are cooking for others, and that would just not be motivating enough for me.
Finish it up, place everything nicely on a plate, pour a matching glass of wine… Eat. Instant gratification! How many other tasks that you do in day offer the same?