How I learned to enjoy cooking

chocolateFour years ago, I moved from California to D.C. to pursue my Big Life Dream at the time. I rented a spacious, reasonably priced northern Virginia apartment with an acquaintance from a previous summer program, and things seemed to be going pretty well. Then one night, she took a phone call while we were watching a movie in the living room. She made the egregious mistake of putting the caller on speaker before first announcing there was an audience.

“So I got your text and wanted to talk to you about your roommate,” her sister said.

“I’m right here,” I said before she could go on and make the situation even more awkward than it already was.

“Yup,” my roommate replied sheepishly.

“Oh, just wanted to say she’s awesome!” the sister said.

Yeah yeah yeah. Later on, I asked my roommate why her sister felt the need to have a discussion about me. She’d meant for it to be a private conversation, but I didn’t want her harboring any bad thoughts about me.

“Well, it’s just about you not liking cooking or trying new things,” my roommate said.

A southern belle, my roommate lived to cook. She was great at it too. But I didn’t love the fact that she and her sister viewed my disdain for the kitchen as a major character flaw, let alone one for them to have such intense opinions about. It’s common to complain about roommates, but really? You’re going to trash talk me to your family because I don’t appreciate all the same things you do? Some people like to cook, some people like to eat, and some people merely eat to live. For the longest time, I ate to live, and it really bothered me that others felt they could pass judgment simply because I didn’t subscribe to an outdated notion that women should embrace cooking.

I was obviously pretty worked up about this, as I dedicated an entire blog post to my hatred of cooking at the time:

I cursed the kitchen all night long. If I have to get hurt somehow, I’d rather be in pain as a result of a rock climbing accident or something else I enjoy doing. But really, if I had to go to the hospital in the aftermath of cooking, which I loathe infinitely, I’d be livid for months on end and probably assume that karma was punishing me for despising the Betty Crocker lifestyle.

If I ever make lots of money, my first big purchase will be a cook because I absolutely cannot stand spending any time preparing food. I respect those who love doing this, but I find it rather dangerous, boring, and tedious. I’d rather be writing an article, talking to friends, doing yoga, practicing French, or interviewing a story source.

So, pots and pans of boiling water, you can all go to Hell.

Buzz off!
Buzz off!

OK, crazy!

Up until recently, I’ve only done the bare minimum in the kitchen. I lived off mac n’ cheese, both organic and Kraft, had Campbells’ soup at least twice a week, and occasionally made pasta. My excuse was that I needed to save money, but truthfully, I was too lazy to make an effort. I also disliked the reality that good cooking results from trial and error. I didn’t want to waste my time, money, and calories on something that might not work out. It was much better to go for what I knew: mac n’ cheese, soup, and spaghetti.

Life is different now. Given my chronic gastritis (which was likely provoked by excessive consumption of processed foods), I have to follow a healthy diet, and that means cooking must play a more significant role in my life. Aside from my health demands, I actually like cooking now, as it’s another opportunity for my boyfriend and I to try new stuff together.

For a while, we were so exhausted after long workdays that we only wanted to bake chicken patties and fake burgers for dinner, but we’ve had a lot of fun cooking over the past week or so. It keeps us busy, engaged, and attentive, and the finished product is always satisfying.

On Friday, we made steak and spinach, both of which I absolutely loved:

steak and spinach

The steak was perfect, but as we learned with the spinach, adding salt to the garlic and vinegar mix makes all the difference. The following night, we had leftovers and remembered to sprinkle salt onto the spinach, which was way tastier the second time around. That kind of trial and error I can handle. I guess it’s the disasters that intimidate me, but those come up in all areas of life. I just have to be ready to learn on the fly.

Next on our list is spaghetti and meatballs. I can’t totally abandon my love for pasta, but I can put some iron in the picture and hopefully rebuild my strength following last month’s health scare. When I get confident enough, I’ll attempt the pizza + egg combination, although tomatoes aren’t so good on my weakened esophagus. Just this once, all will be well:

pizza with egg