Contrary to my last name, cooking and I have a complicated relationship.
Initially, I was not that into it and when I attempted to make meals from scratch, things went horribly awry — like the time I attempted to bake fish and the pan melted. Still not sure what happened there.
Then, I went on maternity leave at the exact same time the Food Network was added to our cable lineup.
There’s not a lot you can do while tethered to a newborn, and so I watched Emeril and Bobby and Ming and Tyler and Martha nonstop. I discovered the joys of home-baked focaccia and wicked chicken riggies. I had all these new recipes to turn what was normally a lame chore into an adventure. The celeb chefs always had such a good time, and everything was done in 30 minutes! Of course, it usually took me triple or quadruple that, which was confusing until I put 2 cups and 2 cups together and realized the stars only have to show up for taping while a huge team of assistants handles all the shopping and chopping and, more importantly, the dishes.
These days, cooking feels … pointless.
No. 1, who was my fellow foodie, flew the coop and is making her own meals. That leaves me with a questionable studio audience.
No. 2 isn’t exactly my biggest fan.
“No offense” — she aways starts off like this because she thinks the phrase softens the blow of what comes next — “but that looks disgusting.”
No. 3 is 17 years old and an eating machine. He is, for all intents and purposes, a walking stomach that also sleeps. He should be my target demographic. BUT he’s not especially discriminating. He consumes mass quantities of Taco Bell and is always on some strategic meal plan that I can’t crack. He says he requires lots of protein, so I fixed chopped, Cajun-seasoned chicken AND chicken andouille sausage (13 g of protein, according to the label) — with some veggies and organic brown rice. But he came home at 9 p.m. after weightlifting carrying bags of Chick-Fil-A. He’s also cutting down on sugar, so hard pass on the fresh-baked cookies I made BUT he’ll come back from a Target run with Rice Krispies Treats, Gushers (I do not get them. Are you going to gush OR NOT?! Why is there not more goo in the middle?! Don’t half-ass it, people who make Gushers) and the biggest box of Lucky Charms ever manufactured. Since he was trying not to eat so much sugar, I helped him by plucking out the marshmallows.
That leaves one mouth to feed. My husband’s. He invariably ladles out his highest praise for easy, heat n’ eat meals from Trader Joe’s and not the Dr Pepper-braised short ribs I spent hours on. This makes sense because when he was on his own, he happily subsisted on creations like a can of chili tossed with a can of corn. (“I call it Chili Con Corny!” he told me proudly.)
I know what you’re thinking — that I must be a terrible cook.
But I’m not! I mean, I did forget to put sugar in the brownies once and another time I failed to question the recipe calling for an entire cup of salt to be rubbed onto a pork shoulder.
I’ll tell you what *I’m* thinking … that this is how I weasel out of dinner. Forever. It’s my get-out-of-the-kitchen free card.
I could totally just pop open cans of chili and corn, stick spoons in them and toss them on the table. Dinner’s served. Minimal dishes, too.
Then I’d have allllll this free time. What would I even do with myself? I mean, I guess I could take up a new hobby. I was just reading about canine freestyle dance. That seems promising. Just look at my partners! Pretty sure this could be way more fulfilling than cooking.