Martorella: Cook off
For years I have rattled on about the many trying tasks of parenting: the good, the bad, the ugly, the hilarious, the frustrating, the embarrassing. But there is one subject I have not yet tackled, and it has become the most trying part of my days. It’s a confession I am hesitant to share, because it seems so politically incorrect, so uncool even. It’s just…it’s just that…it’s just that I hate cooking. There, I said it, I really, really hate cooking. But somehow cooking has become a dominant part of my life. How did that happen? I mean, who are all these people in my kitchen and why do they want to eat, again and again and again?
I have nothing against other people cooking. I watch the cooking shows, I like the competitions, I personally enjoy eating. I wish I liked to cook. Cooking is such a source of connection between people and families that the lack of that talent reduces my socializing efforts (hosting a dinner is just too stressful), affects the structure of our mealtimes (I spend most of the time cooking different things sequentially instead of having one meal on the table at once), and limits the ability to build traditions around holidays and the like. There’s no fun family banter in the kitchen here (but then there are no big fights at the table either).
Maybe my discomfort with cooking is because I never really had to cook for anyone but myself. I was the youngest of six, but because of a sizeable age gap, I was the only one living at home for most of my formative years. I don’t remember any big family meals aside from holidays. In my teenage years, I mastered the basic meals for one: soup, sandwiches, Kraft mac and cheese, TV dinners, scrambled eggs, cereal.
College meals were provided in the dining hall freshman year, then followed by a steady diet of ramen noodles, bagels, Diet Coke, and burgers when I moved out of the dorms. As a young adult in the corporate world, I ate most of my meals out: coffee from the corner truck, lunch from the local deli, dinner during happy hour with friends, on the company when working, or picked up on the walk home. My studio apartment didn’t even have an oven, in fact it barely had a kitchen, just a fridge topped with a sink and two burners (seriously). That’s when I started making French toast for dinner. So fancy.
In the early days with my husband, we cooked a little more, but it was still pretty basic — lots of pasta. We even took some classes for fun and learned a few recipes that we’d repeat for every event over six months or so, but one day they would just be forgotten.
Early parenthood still didn’t stretch me. I mean, I had the mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and frozen pizza down pat, adding chicken fingers to the mix was no big deal. My own meals were sporadic, and my husband would throw together leftovers, sensitive to my harried days and often harried nights to come with the kids.
But now my house is full of people who eat real meals, and who want to be fed regularly. Three times a day, I mean, come on.
My growing teenage son and grown teenage-like husband seem to believe that it is important to have protein daily. I mean, how demanding can you be?! I don’t enjoy working with meat at alI. I don’t know how to buy it, and I’m always so afraid I will undercook it that I usually overcook it. They also like flavor, those fiends, but I have no mastery of spices, so my meals are pretty basic. Luckily, they know the way to the spice drawer.
My daughter does not approve of the spices, or really any foods beyond the basics we have already mentioned, most of which my son now rejects. And so it goes.
Even with my failures, my family keeps asking for more food. And they keep eating ALL THE STUFF, requiring multiple trips to the supermarket weekly, and constant dishwashing, and so so so much time at the stove. After spending so much time preparing meals for everyone else, I usually forget to feed myself, or more often completely lose interest in eating.
I thought I could solve it all with a crockpot, but turns out at any given time, only 2 of the 4 of us want the resulting soup, stew, or roast, and I can only cook one meal in the crockpot at a time. I think I need to get an Instant pot now to multitask, and also to fill in when no pre-planning was done.
But really, can’t we just order in?
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.