Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here there be cooking

I have an acquaintance who supplements her family's income by selling kitchenware, and yet she says without the slightest sense of irony that she doesn't cook.

I think this is one of the strangest statements to come out of the mouth of anyone (not just my acquaintance) with access to a kitchen. What do you mean, you don't cook? Is it that you don't know how to boil water? You doubt your ability to follow a simple recipe? You're so rich that the financial toll of having someone else prepare your food is something to be waved off? Proclaiming that one doesn't cook makes about as much sense as announcing that one doesn't read, or pay bills, or do laundry. Cooking is not rocket science. It's not magic. How hard it it to boil a pot of pasta and dump a jar of sauce on it? And you'd pay someone $5.75 at the very cheapest joints to do it for you!

Almost any form of prepared food is an attempt to approximate home cooking. It is not difficult (and I do mean that! It's not difficult) to make a home-cooked meal that rivals restaurant food, and blows the store-bought frozen version out of the water. That new-fangled technology, the crockpot, makes it easy for anyone to come home to steaming stew or pea soup or chicken 'n dumplings. Any old pot will boil water for rice or pasta. Baking potatoes: what could be simpler? Put 'em in the oven for an hour! For this, for this we are charged a fee at a restaurant!

I happen to like to cook, but I don't think that's the point. Cooking at home is so easy and so much more cost-effective than eating out that it's just foolish to refuse to do it even if it's not your bag. Cooking is not rocket science. It's not magic.

If you can read and follow directions, you can cook. If not -- well, we don't let kindergarteners touch the stove either.


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Does she have a family? I'd love to know what she does for food each night, and how she affords it!

I used to be one of the "I don't cook" people in our pre-kid days...and we spent the equivalent of some countries' GDP on restaurants. Learning to cook was a slow and painful process (I seriously had to carefully read the instructions on the pasta bag many times lest I screw it up) but it really is easy...and SO much cheaper!

Literacy-chic said...

I have issues with cooking, really. In spite of my "Quick Lenten Meals." I sometimes like to cook and I sometimes like what I cook, but there are times when I can't stand the thought of ANYTHING I COOK! I guess I get into rather a rut with the meals I prepare, but sometimes the Cappellini Pomodoro at Olive Garden (where I don't go anymore because they're too expensive now) sounds so much better than any pasta & sauce I could throw together! More often, perhaps, it's just the "I don't wanna cook" or "we're hungry now--if we go home, we'll have to start DOING STUFF in order to eat!" or "if we cook, we'll have to clean dishes before cooking, and the cooking itself will yield dishes, so why not skip the middle step?" The positive arguments to home cooking--chiefly that it's healthier--just don't always add up. That's one of the problems with being a grad student with a family, I think. A two-graduate-student-family in the recent past. Then there were the times when we existed for weeks at a time on $0.10/pack noodles and a can of tomato paste, tuna, and cheese, and eating out when we got paid was kind of a "reward" for making it to the end of the month with food!! Sad, huh? ;)

Unknown said...

Whether or not I cook depends on what definition of 'cook' one uses.
I can toast/heat/defrost/boil water/etc. , as long as the ingredients are prepackaged. Otherwise, all bets are off.(And as for baking, forget it ! As a girl my sole baking project ended up setting the kitchen curtains on fire !)
That being said, if I could afford it I would happily eat every single meal out. I hate cooking so much avoiding the stress would be worth the cost. Resturant food has the added benefit that whatever dishes, pots, pans, glasses, or utensils get dirty from it, are the responsibility of somebody else. That makes the food taste extra good !

Literacy-chic said...

I'll have you know, you jinxed me with this post! I made split pea soup tonight on a whim (or a craving) and spent 20 min. looking at cookbooks at the bookstore!!

mrsdarwin said...


I will confess that some evenings we feel so dragged out that we go out just to avoid the fuss of making stuff at home. However, anymore it's not so restful to go out with three small children. And if you factor in the cost of a baby-sitter... Anyway, when the girls get a bit older, they get to do all the dishes. Heh, heh...

I remember how hard it was to cook when Darwin was away on a trip. The girls were young enough that they didn't eat much, so I was making dinner just for myself. I didn't realize until then how hard it is to get motivated to cook for just one person.

Still, for every day, the financial ramifications of taking a family of five out to eat frequently are a bit too heavy for our budget.

Amber said...

I don't get that "I don't cook" thing either. I know several women who fit into the category and their families seem to subsist on frozen food, meals out, take out, and meals from those gourmet make it there, take it home and freeze it places. I had one woman telling me how great it was and how cost effective it was (at $4-7 per serving!!) I must have been looking at her like she nuts because she then added, "well, if you compare it to eating out". Ridiculous!

And it is nice to see that I can comment on your blog again... for awhile there the little word verification image wouldn't come up - all it would have in that place was "word verification" Helpful, don't you think?

mrsdarwin said...


I don't know why blogger does what it does :), but I'm glad that you're back!

One of the things that boggles me is stay-at-home moms not cooking. I mean, isn't part of my economic contribution to the family to prepare meals so we don't have to pay someone else to do it?

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

When I tell people that I don't cook, I mean that I can make a limited number of things by following recipes, but I can't (like many of my friends) decide on a meal and put it together without benefit of an explicit recipe. And I don't mean the kind of recipe that says "Prepare the pasta al dente; make a bechamel sauce; add sauteed anchovies to taste." Especially I can't substitute or alter effectively. I prepare food, but I don't really *cook*.

Sarah Reinhard said...

GUILTY! I've never thought about it this way before...but I wonder if the "I don't cook" thing is like the "I don't read" thing I have come across (and have a VERRRY similar reaction to what you posted about cooking). Until Rachael Ray's 30-minute meals and a few of these whiz-bang cooks in the blogosphere came into my life, I just hadn't had any success with cooking. I'm converting...slowly. But the kid is still young, and he's at school two nights a week and working late all the time it's just me. PB&J is OK for that. But I hear you. Realizing that "cooking" (which seemed like a minor in chemistry to me not so long ago) is really just "following directions" (albeit with style and grace, of which I lack both), was very liberating. Not always very yummy yet, but we'll get there. :)