jeffwagg and I exchange stories by giving each other a word which is the seed for the next correspondence. This is my response to his choice of “Heat.”
It’s 9 p.m. I’m sitting at my desk, doing homework and chatting with friends on the computer. My boyfriend, Justin, is sitting across the room at his computer. He leans back in his chair, and the creaking makes me look up.
“Sooo…” he breathes.
I stretch and sigh, knowing what question is going to come next. My head flops back in my chair and I make a face. I hate this time of night.
It’s time to figure out what to make for dinner.
When I was growing up, I was never expected to learn how to cook. My grandmother lived with us, and she did all the cooking for the family since my parents worked all day. I was spoiled on rich Korean food, the kind of stuff that someone would pay a lot of money for in a fancy Korean restaurant. I’m sorry to say that I took this for granted. When I moved out of my parents’ house, I ran into a little dilemma during my first night in my new apartment – I didn’t have any food. Even worse, I didn’t know how to make any food. I think I may have gone out and bought a frozen pizza. During the time I lived in my first apartment, I ended up eating a lot of fresh fruit and other things that didn’t need much preparation or cooking. Dinners were absurdly simple (read: unhealthy boxed stuff).
I spent a lot of time at Justin’s apartment. We had met fairly recently, just a year or so ago, and we were spending a lot of time with each other. My best friend had moved to New York to go to school and funnily enough, Justin had just moved here from New York to start a new part of his life. One of the things I was most impressed with was that Justin knew how to make dinner out of a bunch of seemingly random grocery items. Without recipes, even! I had many dinners at his apartment.
We moved in together about three years ago. His ability to look into the refrigerator and create dinner still impresses me. It’s funny to see how he critiques his dinner creations as we sit down to eat. I almost always think that everything tastes delicious. He almost always has something to say – too much garlic, not enough oregano, too much thyme (“What the heck is thyme?” I sit and wonder), something small that my untrained tongue cannot detect.
These circumstances have led to a complete disinterest in learning how to cook. Oh, I have tried, yes I have. Occasionally, I will have a sudden burst of motivation. I’ll look up a recipe on the computer, set out for the grocery store to buy the appropriate items, and start following the recipe. For some reason, I find recipes hard to follow. I usually manage to make something marginally edible, but it never seems to taste as good as the things Justin makes. More importantly, I don’t find any enjoyment in cooking. So many people tell me that they really enjoy cooking, but I just find it stressful. So many things to worry about! Are the onions burning? Is the beef supposed to be that color? Did I add the salt already? Justin tells me that the enjoyment will come once I start practicing my cooking, but with so much on my plate already, I find that I just can’t handle the heat of the kitchen.
When I tell people that I can’t cook, I get a few interesting responses. Usually, it’s along the lines of, “You can’t cook? Of course you can cook, you just don’t know it,” or “Anyone can cook, that’s silly.” It can be quite depressing, or infuriating, depending on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I feel that there is a great chasm between me and everyone else, like we’re standing on opposite sides of a giant cooking pot.
Luckily, I have a wonderful live-in companion that makes food for me while I sit and do homework assignments, night after night after night. He is good-natured about it, and when the rare motivation to cook strikes me, he’ll come in the kitchen and try to elicit a type of Pavlov’s Response while I cut vegetables by giving me little hugs and smooches. I always know exactly what he’s up to and when I call him out on it, he smiles and says, “I know you know, but you should learn how to cook anyway.”
- The Gifts She Gave (nytimes.com)
- What’s for Dinner: Breakfast – Quiche and More! (faithfulprovisions.com)