Thursday, October 9, 2008

A single girl in the kitchen

** Warning – if you are a really good cook, 
the below post may horrify you, reader beware **

I’ve hinted before that I’m not a very good cook and I fear that I will shock many of you with how bad I actually am at it. I don't want to be a bad cook but food doesn’t have the same cache for me that it does for others. Food sustains me but it doesn’t feed me like other things do. Many of my friends are “foodies” and excellent cooks, which is why they are horrified at my lack of skill. There is even a rule in my apartment that no one can look in my fridge, thanks to a previous teasing that I received.

Because I'm hoping everyone will be nice, below is a picture of my fridge contents. It's actually pretty full right now, which surprises me.


So it should shock no one that my food habits mimic many of my lunch habits – I pretty much eat the same thing for dinner every week (depending on how much I will be home).

On a good week, if I’ll be home a lot after work, my dinners consist of the following:
  • Chicken breast
  • Yogurt
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Treat (optional)
If I’m going to be gone for most of the week (for knitting, events, etc.) I will adjust this so that I’m not wasteful:
  • Pasta (sauce optional) or cereal
  • Yogurt
I do not know how to make pasta sauce from scratch, successfully make pancakes or really anything breakfast-related outside of scrambled eggs. I don’t cook with meat often too so don't ask me how to brown it and I don't know how to make pie crust. Basically, I get a big FAIL on just about everything. But, I can cut up a green pepper or cantaloupe in a snap!

So when people ask why I never cook and why I don’t learn, the answer is simple: I don’t like cooking a big meal for just me.

Being single, I don’t see the need to put in a lot of effort for something I will just shove in my mouth while reading blogs and/or working from home. Maybe if I wasn't single, I would put more effort into cooking, but for now, it's just me.

I’m so embarrassed to admit this, but before “Top Chef,” I never heard about layering flavors in food or exotic words like...ceviche. In fact, when I go out, if I recognize a “Top Chef” food, I automatically order it, because if it’s good for the show, it’s good enough for me! I even asked someone if Panko bread crumbs were readily available in the grocery store and the woman thought I was actually kidding. I wasn’t.

So how did I end up being so inept in the kitchen? I didn't really grow up cooking. My mom and stepmom are both great cooks and dinner was always provided for me, but they liked to use the meal prep time as their time alone, so my brothers and I never were given sous chef duties. And then came college and pizza and more prepared meals and then here I am...still two left feet in the kitchen.

One of the items on my list is cooking a gourmet meal for my friends, which I really want to do, but given another recent teasing incident about the difference between “medium” and “medium-rare” meat, I’m shrinking back into my non-cooking shell. But even though I don't care for all the work put into creating a meal, I always appreciate and recognize others who do. I'm always complimentary and willing to help do dishes as a thank you. That counts as something right?

And that is my story about how bad I am in the kitchen and why. I'm sure many of you are shaking your heads and I bow mine in shame. But surely I can't be the only girl who isn't the best in the kitchen...am I?

Okay maybe if I am...let's change the subject then...big weekend plans for anyone out there? Bueller?

45 comments:

Arielle said...

Oh my lord do I suck at cooking. You are not alone, my friend.

LBluca77 said...

I am not a good cook either. I have a few things I can make somewhat decent. But like you I don't need to make a huge meal just for me. Then I also have to clean up that huge meal I made just for me.

Oh and P.S. I picked up some pb&j supplies today at the store. I forgot how much I enjoy a pb&j sandwich.

Rebekah said...

EXACTLY. Cook a huge meal and make a huge mess just for myself? Helllll to the no!

That's really why I got back with E, by the way. He cooks while I take care of the yard. Fair enough.

Miss Adventurous said...

It looks like you took a picture of my fridge and put it in your post. I don't think I'm a *horrible* cook, per se, but I never do it because I don't have the time or patience.

The most "gourmet" thing I ever get is fresh mozzerella. Other than that, it's take-out, yogurt, and salad in a bag. And the OCCASIONAL Rachael Ray meal...

We Are Not Martha said...

I have sooo many friends that thought they "couldn't cook" but it just takes practice! And a bit of confidence. But, as my mom says, "if you can read, you can cook"

My blog that I write with a friend has good recipes that are pretty simple for any type of cook :)

Sues
also from www.betterthancupcakes.tumblr.com

howitstarts said...

I definitely agree that cooking for one just isn't as fun. Sometimes, I'll make multiples of things (chicken breasts for example) and then just eat it multiple days in a row. Right now, I'm reading a book about a woman who takes cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu and a lot of the foods are only familiar to me because of Top Chef. Who says TV doesn't teach? ;)

Maris said...

I cook for just myself and I usually have a pretty full freezer. Sometimes when my parents visit me I send THEM home with leftovers and they're like "This should be the other way around." Haha! Sometimes I feel like "why do I bother with this? It's just me" and those are the nights when I eat cheese and crackers. But since I like food and enjoy eating, I figure since I might be single for awhile I might as well eat good meals until my perfect guy comes along to make them for me :)

Blaez said...

it's ok to not be a great cook or even a good cook when your single. when i was growing up it was me and my dad so i learned to cook for 2. then he remarried and i didn't have to cook anymore. then i moved out and ate nothing but cereal for like a million years it seems. cereal and sandwiches. when the ex and i moved in together i had to 'relearn' to cook. it's like having sex: you never forget. just gotta get your technique back in shape.

my suggestion for you is this: invite on occasion a few of your girlfriends over and have a "cooking session/party" with lots of wine and beer. practice honing up on your culinary skills. you can always take leftovers to work.

why do ask?

so when you find that perfect man you want to cook for: you have the skillz to wow him!

my babysister couldn't even boil water when she got married. as a joke we all bought her tons of recipe and cookbooks for her wedding gifts. her husband says she does great when she follows the recipes but fludges things up when she tries to experiment.

Caz said...

I totally understand how you feel. While I can cook (and think I'm at least pretty decent at it, if not good) I never really did cook until AB and I started living together with our flatmates. His roomates' mom was dying and everyone worked long hours while I sat around the house and sun bathed. So I started cooking dinner for everyone on a regular basis, and it just went from that.

When I lived on my own, I totally lived on veggie stir fry, bagged salad, popcorn, and pasta. Even now I don't like cooking a full meal for myself. It's boring.

On the other hand, I totally don't know how to make a pie-crust either! But only because I never have. I think if I wanted to I'd be able to find a recipe and make a pretty decent one. You just have to think positive and have confidence you can do it! You don't wake up one day knowing how to invent your own meals, you just read enough recipes and practice enough meals to eventually figure out what flavours go together and how to improvise with what you've got in the fridge.

Mandy said...

I am still wading into unchartered kitchen territory, but really its not as bad as I used to think it was. Sure I completely ruin pans, set off the smoke detector, and end up with some things even my dog wont eat from time to time, but overall its not bad.

I can give you a recipe for microwave fudge and peanut brittle! :-)

ToughGirl101 said...

I've cooked for friends too, it's not that hard. But for the most part, I'll do microwavable meals or sandwiches since it's just me. I mean, it's me and my roommate, and our taste pallets are not that sophisticated. We're happy with the microwave, or hamburger helpers.

And usually we come home at different times so it's really only food for me.

Joy @ Big Time Fancy said...

Oh my god. Come over for dinner. My roommate will teach you things.

SA said...

You have more food in your refrigerator than me. Yea being poor!

I love to cook. I just hate the clean up after wards so I don't do it that much. And I'm with you on cooking a big meal just for oneself. I see no point in that.

With that said-I have no idea what Panko bread crumbs are, I've never made pasta sauce from scratch and baring my curiosity suddenly kicking in I won't, I hate pie so I don't know how to make pie crust, and as I don't eat any meat that isn't well done I have no idea the difference between medium and medium rare. And let me say again, I love to cook. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. You're not trying to be a chef. What you should do, if you really want to increase your cooking skills, is get a relatively easy cook book (maybe a beginner's cook book) or just grab some recipes from online and start cooking. Eventually you'll get better and better.

Oh, and I fully endorse pasta w/o sauce. I tend to put some grated Parmesan cheese (just the regular Kraft green can) on top and go. If I have any other type of cheese I might add it, I might not. Depends on my mood.

Endless Randomness said...

You know what's really useful when you feel like conjuring up a fancy meal but are unsure of your culinary prowess? Ready-to-cook condiments/ gravies/ sauces.

For example.. If you enjoy Thai food.. next time you're out shopping for supplies look for 'coconut milk/ coconut powder' and 'thai curry paste' (red/ green or yellow.. your call). All you need to do is this -

1. Marinate fish/ chicken in the paste and let it sit for a while.
2. Cut up any vegetables that you like - bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, babycorn, asparagus etc
3. Put in a little oil in the pan and throw in the meat. Let it cook on low flame for 5 mins.
4. Put in coconut milk and your veggies and let everything cook for a while.
(You could add salt, pepper, lemon juice if you wish)

Your thai curry is ready to serve with steamed rice.. may not qualify as gourmet but is bloody GOOD :)

Gina Louise said...

You come my house, I teach you pie crust! No but really, I started to cook in Oregon and then even more so in France because I did live by myself and had the time. I would just make a lot of something and eat it for a while. Something that I found fun was to try recipes or techniques that I was afraid of to try and get over it- that's how I learned roasts and risottos and other things. But not souffles. I'm still afraid of souffles.

jenn said...

I know what you mean about not wanting to cook for one. It's just that little bit harder to motivate yourself.

But there are plenty of really easy things to do that are a bit more exciting than sauceless pasta!!
I could share more, but I have to go watch Top Chef now... Get some more tips.

ifmusicbe said...

I don't suck at cooking buti do suck at remembering to buy food. currentyl in my fridge there is an airtight box filled with potatoes and 3 pints of milk

Jenn said...

If it makes you feel any better I've never heard of ceviche. I don't even watch Top Chef.

I'm not sure what I'm up to this weekend. Perhaps I'll master my napping technique.

HisHersMoney said...

You should look into taking some cooking classes. They usually offer them at the community colleges and they are actually fun!

Katie said...

I have lived alone for 4 years, and it never phases me to cook a meal for myself. I realize time is tight for everyone, but it's a fallacy that single people shouldn't cook for themselves. If your friends deserve a great meal you've prepared, why don't you? Plus, you'll want to practice making a meal you're going to serve to other people, so you get to be your own guinea pig! :)

I'm a law student, so time is pretty tight, but I make myself 2 meals from scratch a week, and usually make a pot of soup or curry (something that reheats easily) on the weekends. This saves a TON of money--packaged food is so expensive--and gets me through the week.

I am one of those people for whom cooking is their "thing," but I love to share the love of my favorite hobby! I really think that you'll find once you start cooking more, you'll enjoy it more. Good luck!

Foxie said...

Hell, I'm married and I can barely cook. :) We go out to eat more often than anything, really, so there was never a big need... Mac and cheese is still a fantastic dinner! And boxed pasta salads and potatoes... Easy, good food. (Maybe not good to some, but good enough for us! Cheap, too.)

About the only thing I have is one dish that involves tilapia that I can make... That turns out really good, and I've made it enough that I don't have to look at the recipe anymore. Turns out pretty good, if I do say so myself, but that's the extent of my culinary skills. ;)

Coconut said...

I just had this conversation with someone! I actually like to cook, and have a few dishesI'm pretty good at, but I live alone. I'm not gonna go to all that effort to cook a me-size portion of something.

Kyla Bea said...

I definitely hear you on not wanting to make a gourmet feast for one all the time....but I definitely want to send you a care package! lol = )

Bobbie said...

You are simply adapting to survive, girl! When I was single and lived alone, I saw no reason to cook, either. Why make a giant mess and dirty up a bunch of dishes for just YOU?

if you want to learn some things, i recommend checking out some of the recipes on 'real simple' -- they're good, fresh, relatively healthy, and unique. And it's how I finally started cooking/learning more stuff.

and then have some dinner parties to test them out. :)

thatShortChick said...

at least there IS someting you can cook. so kudos to you.

i can't even properly prepare hot chocolate! (as you may have read about that little tale on my blog).
i'm determined to learn but haven't really put forth much effort into doing so (shamefully).

RecoveringActor said...

I'm a pretty good cook... but I'm afraid to stray from the book. I'm always finding recipes, and I have my nose in them the entire time. The one that I've found works the best is Cooks Country. It's actually a TV show on PBS... and it's the best cooking show ever. I get most of my recipes from them because the try 500+ combinations of things before they find the "right" one. Maybe Cooks Country would work for you...

Cheryl said...

Your fridge looks like my fridge. Only better. I like to cook, but like you said, when it's just me, why bother? I like all the kitchen stuff though. One time I made soup from scratch. It was good, and kind of fun. But I sure had a lot of soup left over.

PS if you want to cook one gourmet meal, take a class at the Chopping Block. It's actually structured that way. You learn an appetizer, a main dish, side and dessert and then you can cook one gourmet meal.

wontletlifedefineme said...

A few tips:
Easy pasta sauce = low fat cooking cream with some salt, pepper and a tablespoon or two of (bought in supermarket) pesto. Done within about 2 minutes, because you only need to heat it. Or buy some Tomato Frito tomato sauce, add a few dried herbs (oregano, basil) and there you go. You can poach an egg in the sauce too (let it slide into the sauce and cook until done, basically).

I really love to cook even though I didn't really grow up with it. It helps that my boyfriend is equally enthusiastic about food and we like to try new recipes.

LJ said...

We are just alike! I have zero interest in cooking!

Miss Grace said...

I don't like cooking for one either. And cooking for a toddler = fish sticks and mac n cheese.
So I totally get it.

Lacey Bean said...

I cook a lot more now that I live with my boyfriend. When I was living at home, it was a lot of ramen, pasta, popcorn, and sneaking upstairs to my parents to steal food/grub dinner. :)

And my fridge looked so much worse than yours!

lifeintheleftlane said...

I completely understand not wanting to cook for just yourself. When T is out of town during the week I struggle, but that's when I get together with some single friends and we all cook together. It's a lot of fun and you get to hang out together. You should try it.

All I can say is, don't let cooking scare you. It's really not that hard and you can't mess things up too badly (unless you totally scorch something), except if you are baking. And that's a whole diff story. :)

SarahBeth said...

Wow. Reading this post was like reading about my own life! Your diet almost exactly mirrors my own, except that I hate yogurt. And I don't think your fridge looks too shabby at all... wine, soda, water, a few snacks... what else does a girl need?

I've never been that interested in cooking. Frankly, I know what I like and what's easy/quick to make, and anything else that I might crave is always readily available at a restaurant. I recently moved in with my boyfriend, but I don't think this will change things much. In my opinion, a person's cooking habits don't have much to do with being single or taken. Some people are just "cooks" and others aren't. I wouldn't worry too much about it; I'm sure you have many other talents. :-)

Katelin said...

i'm not a great cook either. it's a good thing matt is the chef extraordinaire these days, haha.

but i would totally be content with cereal and yogurt, heck i still do that on late nights. it's quite alright.

Angela said...

You really can't go wrong with cereal. I'll admit I still eat it on a consistent basis for a meal other than breakfast.

pinkhighheels said...

Hi there! I just stumbled upon your blog today and love it!

I'm the exact opposite of you. I love to cook! I grew up cooking for my family of five, and now do it for myself and my roommates. I will agree though, cooking for one is hard. I think that's one of the main reasons I have roommates again =)

Megkathleen said...

I used to live on pasta and cereal when I was single too. It's a lot easier to get into cooking when there's somebody else there to appreciate it.

Stephanie said...

I hate to cook, but I love to bake. I think its because I'm not very good at improvising in the kitchen, and with baking you have to follow everything precisely. However, I do make a pretty mean Red Beans & Rice, and I barely measure. So, who knows...

Maki said...

I was not a good homemaker nor cook, but I had to force myself to be one after meeting my hubby's mom. It was like a boot camp....

But I'm better at it now and I know you can do it too, Jess because you're so charming and smart :D

Erin said...

We should totally throw a dinner party! I absolutely adore dinner parties...and it's easier to cook for a group if more than one person is cooking!

My weekend plans -- clean my house. That's it. Lame.

Maxie said...

I love, love, LOVE to cook, but I feel your pain about not having anyone to cook with. I have my mom, but it feels kind of silly making a ton of food for just two people-- plus it's expensive!

The best cook books i've found are the ones for 4.99 (or around that) at borders. You know the big ones on the bargain table with lots of pictures? the recipes are AMAZING. I have a ton of them because I fell in love with the first one i got. You should check it out!

Angela said...

Trust me, doll. I'm a far worse cook than you. I don't think I could even handle a chicken breast.

Ashley D said...

Oh goodness, we sound pretty similar as far as cooking goes. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a real adult because I don't know how to cook fancy meals, but I don't do much of it since I don't like cooking for one. Maybe that will change once I meet that special guy.

Rachel Burton said...

Is panko readily available in the supermarket?? This could be my one chance to find out! I always skip those recipes because I'm never sure!

G+D said...

Hmm. I see a bottle of wine, and I see a jar of salsa. What more does a girl need in her fridge??