One is too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

I love watching cooking shows, which is ironic, since cooking for my family makes me want to impale myself on a wooden spoon.  It wasn’t always that way.

I discovered my love for cooking as a single woman, living alone.  After months of peanut butter and popcorn, I decided that I’d had my fill of eating like a college student.  It was a sad commentary on my life, that somehow the only decent meal came with a bill at the end–as if I wasn’t worth the effort.

I had to learn step-by-step, working through a Better Homes and Garden Cookbook that my mother gave to me as a graduation gift.  Eventually, I was subscribing to Bon Appetit and Gourmet and the Joy of Cooking.  I bought fresh vegetables and set a table, all for myself.  I eventually met and married a great guy whose idea of gourmet cooking was adding dill to scrambled eggs.  We hosted lots of dinner parties and I’d spend entire afternoons preparing the perfect multi-course dinner.

Then, my son arrived.  First, I had to give up cooking during pregnancy, because the very sight of raw meat sent me reeling.  I could barely eat with other people, let alone cook for them.  After he was born, I was too tired.  When his godmother brought over a pan of  macaroni and cheese from Whole Foods, I literally wept.  For the next few years we ate from the small menu list my work schedule and my son’s narrow taste preferences would afford.  When my husband traveled, I didn’t bother cooking at all.  I just ate hot dogs and chicken nuggets along with my son.

As he grew, I tried to re-energize my love for cooking.  It came in phases–the vegetarian phase, the Julia Child phase, the clean food phase, but I just revert to the default.  Cook a protein and two vegetables.  It’s gone in 15 minutes anyway.  Why put any more effort into it?  It doesn’t seem to matter, my family eats it all the same, with virtually no difference in reaction.  The if-you-don’t-like-it-you-can-cook-for-yourself plan.

I dread cooking dinner, and I derive little joy from eating it, which means the meal is usually late. Sadder yet, I think my disregard comes through in the flavor, like In Water for Chocolate.  What does resentment taste like?  A protein and two vegetables. Dinnertime is stressful and brief, not the respite I always wanted it to be.  My life is busy, even busier now that I’ve committed to writing as a full-time job.  It leaves me drained and tired, yet with no paycheck at the end….yet.

I grew up in a family where food is love.  Food is family.  Food is nurturing.  If I don’t nurture myself, then who will? How did I get here–from the woman who cooked for herself because she was worth it, to the woman who serves pique on a plate? So the question is, what comes off the to-do list so that this can come back on? Showering?

And yet, if I’m satisfied by meals, perhaps I won’t find the Cadbury eggs so tempting.  So what’s on the menu?  Good question.  Perhaps instead of saying grace before eating, I need to say grace before cooking.  To remember that the food, my family, and our time together is a blessing and a celebration.  Who doesn’t love a party?  Especially if there’s cake involved.  I never resent cake.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Patrick Q

7 comments on “One is too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

  1. Cindy Brown says:

    Oh, krikey! Way to make me feel guilty first thing on a Monday morning! Crap, now I feel like I need to learn to cook, which I loathe. I’ve tried not to loathe it, but indeed I do loathe it. I like your line, “Perhaps instead of saying grace before eating, I need to say grace before cooking.”

    • It doesn’t serve me well to hate cooking, since I actually love eating, and no one is going to do it for me. I’m going to think of it as a form of meditation–think peaceful thoughts as I hack vegetables into small pieces.

  2. TheOthers1 says:

    I’m just starting the “cooking for myself” thing. Everyone else in my family cooks and I just don’t feel like it. I did real well last semester after convincing myself that I needed to be and adult and make something instead of eating out since grad school was over. I was cooking basic stuff and baking and was pretty daggone proud. The stress of this semester combined with a nasty bout of depression killed that desire. I’ve baked once or twice and cooked maybe a handful of times since January. TV dinners and Dominos are bffs of mine.

    Well, I’m off to find an easy stir fry recipe to get me out of a rout. 🙂

  3. Oh, my gosh!! I think you are me. I’ve reached a point in life where, time or no time, I’m just tired of cooking. I have grand plans, pin recipies in Pinterest sometimes, and love reading cookbooks. But when it comes down to it, I’m sick and tired of the job and I do it less and less. Thanks for writing this. It makes me feel less alone!

  4. It’s always nice to find a kindred spirit. Trust me–you are not alone…

  5. How familiar your feeling is. In an early blog of mine, I referenced a book that takes the opposite view. ( I read the book only because I had met the author who was charming but was so-o-o glad I did. It’s a great read that I recommend.

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