You know how as an adult your relationships get compartmentalized? Your work friends know you for being able to whip up a great presentation in no time and for a few clever jokes about the boss. Your girlfriends know you for your laughter and the way you constantly dole out unsolicited advice (and love you for it anyway) and your Facebook friends know you by the funny quotes from your kids and constant requests for another cup of Starbucks. Well, that’s how most of my relationships are anyway. I wear a lot of hats and the people in my life know me in different ways. Very few people know the whole picture. I imagine that’s how it is for most people. But there is one thing I think every single person in my life knows about me. I can’t cook.
When I was 12 I decided to make a batch of cookies. They turned out to be more of a huge mush of goo in the middle of the cookie sheet. I’m not really sure what I did to them, but no matter how long they stayed in the oven, it remained goo. My childhood friend on the other hand, had quite a knack for cookies and brownies. So the teasing began (Not that I minded it. You’d know I earned it if you had seen those “cookies”) and it just became easier to let her bake them. It’s not like I had any interest in learning how to cook anyway. I just wanted cookies. It was like that all the way through high school. I’d choose a snack and she’d make it perfectly.
By the time I got to college, I didn’t even know how to make so much as a grilled cheese sandwich and I really didn’t need to. I’d either eat ramen noodles or rely on the generosity of my friends who were excellent in the kitchen. Besides, I still had zero interest in learning anything kitchen related and, for whatever reason, no one had any problem believing I couldn’t cook. So an unspoken deal seemed struck. I’d stay out of the kitchen in exchange for being grateful for anything they’d make. My favorite college friend with mad cooking skills still talks to me so it must have worked out alright.
When I dated, we ate out. When I married, I married a man who could cook. When my oldest son was a toddler and we were really getting in to the Christmas spirit together, I tried, for the first time, to get in touch with my inner Martha and made Christmas cookies and frosting from scratch. I gave him an awful case of food poisoning and that was the end of me as Martha and a reminder of why I hadn’t set foot in the kitchen all these years in the first place.
I just can’t cook. It makes sense. I never really tried and I never really wanted to try. How would either of those things add up to a great meal or poison free cookies?
I just can’t cook. It became a refrain in my life, from both myself and from those around me. I didn’t mind it. I earned it. It was just a simple fact about me. My eyes are blue. I can’t cook. I’m not exactly a very “domestic” type of girl anyway, so the fact that I didn’t cook just seemed to complete the picture.
Fast forward 10 or so years. My husband and I have a perfect system nailed down by this point. We sit down every Sunday and make a grocery list together, planning out all of the meals for the week.
Each Sunday he’d say something like: Ok, I’m not here to cook dinner for you and the boys on Monday and Wednesday this week, so what would you like to plan for those nights? I’d then suggest meals based on my ability to really only do three things in the kitchen. Keep an eye on a frozen thing in the oven, boil water, and use a can opener. While you might be surprised (or not) at how far that can get you, they weren’t exactly the healthiest meals on our weekly menus. But the kids loved the once a week frozen pizza tradition and I loved having dinner ready “in 18-20 minutes. May vary by oven.”
And then it happened. My husband’s work schedule changed. It wasn’t going to keep him out late, but just late enough most evenings to prevent him from cooking the family dinner and still allow us to keep our homework/books/bath/bed schedule for the boys. I was going to be in charge of the kitchen. Gulp. While a steady diet of frozen pizza, ramen and fish sticks sounds a lot better than the Ultimate Punishment of having Mom in the kitchen, I knew this was the end of the line for me. The coasting had ended. It had been a good run, but it was over. I had to learn how to how to cook. It was either that or watch my family, literally, turn in to giant packages of processed noodles and sodium. Oh boy.
We’re going to have to go from ramen to recipes.