I love food. But you wouldn’t guess it from my waist line or my fridge. Why?
I’ve given up cooking.
I know, its embarrassing. I devour Top Chef, I collect recipes and I love nothing more than a long late dinner with multiple courses. I can spend a good 15 minutes staring at a fish counter and I grow my own veggies. I used to love nothing more than to cook an extravagant meal and watch others enjoy it. But lately, its a different story. Cooking for just me?…forget about it.
Feeding myself is tedious. I’ve cooked for myself every day since my early teens and at 41, I think I’m just a little burned out on thinking ‘what’s for dinner?’ and getting excited. I know my mother suffers from the same malaise but I doubt its lasted 20 years… my father would be a lot thinner for sure.
When I was a kid, I regularly used to rush home from school to bake and ice a cake. I’ll never forget my mothers horror at my chocolate Easter roulade which featured 12 eggs and a pound of chocolate and I loved to try out new recipes every week. I made ragu’s and lasagnes, curries and ‘experimental’ vegetarian, all of which my family gamely plodded through, my dad always taking seconds (bless), even the nut roast and mushroom stroganoff.
In college I continued my vegetarian explorations (note, banana yoghurt does not substitute for plain in a curry), and took advantage of easy access to local Indian and Pakistani ingredients. I played around with galangal, asafetida and all manner of pulses, stinking up our group house and feeding everyone on $1.45. Yes, we were malodorous, but we were never hungry and I was rarely bored of cooking.
By the time I hit my first job I was working 60-70 hours a week and I found my food explorations were stunted by a lack of time, money and interest. Living in London gave me access to every type of food, but I found myself dividing my week into dinners of cereal, edamame and tuna fish. Anything which was edible within 10 minutes of me entering my studio apartment, and 5 minutes before crashing out cold, was the only criteria for dinner.
Which was the start of the end. I’d cook something on the weekend and eat it for the next 3 days. Followed by cereal the next night and take out on Friday. Saturday eat out, Sunday cook. Repeat. For the next 10 years.
Did I get sick of the same stuff? Yes, but not enough to bother cracking a cookbook. Why not? Three reasons – hunger, ingredients and washing up.
By the time I am thinking about food, I’m hungry. Which isn’t the time to start cooking, since the sight of anything reading ‘marinade for 45 minutes – 2 hours’ is an instant ‘no no’. This rules out baking, broiling or god forbid, slow cooking.
And then there’s ingredients. I used to shop for fantasy meals but after throwing away cartons of cream and reams of asparagus, I’ve downgraded by grocery list to just the essentials. Which means my fridge largely contains condiments and onions, champagne and beer. You know, the essentials.Which somewhat limits your ability to make a meal.. drink a meal yes… eat… not so much?
And then there’s washing up. My apartment doesn’t contain a dishwasher so its just me as chief clearer upper. And I don’t know the last time you prepared a 2 or 3 course meal without a dishwasher, but that’s a lot of clean up. And yes, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve eaten dessert off my entree plate before now.. hey, I loath washing up.
So currently my favorite go to (other than cereal, salad or tuna) is chickpeas, tomatoes and pesto. In a single pot. Eaten with a fork on a plate. Followed by Greek yogurt. Then nuts and a festival of Gummi animals (50% of my diet is Gummi sharks). And tea, lots of English Breakfast tea.
Why not buy prepacked food? Sure it would be easier and I’d probably eat a wider variety of food, but growing up with a scratch mentality, even a pre-made pie crust makes me shudder. Its full of so much yucky stuff and as a celiac, most of it will send me the hospital anyway. So its down to me, my imagination and an onion most days.
I know one day my inspiration to cook will return. I did cook 3 courses for my ex every day for 5 years so I know I have it in me (hey, I was doing my best Betty Draper). Just for now.. and maybe the next few months, you’ll find in the standing in my kitchen with an onion and a beer. I think dinner is edamame and Gummi worms tonight.