Of all the things that I just can’t get enthusiastic about, cooking would appear right at the top of the list. And of all the things about myself that trouble me hugely, such as my great bone-weary idleness that I must struggle every day to overcome and having provided inadequately for superannuation in my old age, my disinclination to cook is not one of them. These days, after all – unless, perhaps, you have ‘treechanged’ – it is the easiest thing in the world never to prepare a meal.
Certainly, I know people who find cooking relaxing. But can it really be relaxing to, say, chop up a clove of garlic? I am almost never so bored as I am chopping a vegetable into tiny pieces. And then, I get so panicky when a saucepan boils; it’s like when the phone rings in Cape Fear. Worse still, is when a saucepan boils just as something else is happening in another pan and you have to somehow get the things in the two pans to be ready at the same time.
I hear that there are individuals who simply derive a lot of joy from feeding people: grandmothers who bake, for example. My belief, though, is that this may well come from an inability to express love in other ways and so is really an indication of psychological problems. Also, many of these old ladies are, no doubt, jealous of their grandchildren’s youth and beauty, and would like nothing more than to see them too immense to rise from their beds.
Having said all this, I count myself very lucky that I have friends who make delicious things to eat and do, indeed, simply find cooking to be a pleasurable exercise, which is probably exactly why their food is so good. What I can’t stand are those people who regard their willingness to cook as proof of their own moral superiority. I once went to dinner at the house of a woman who had prepared samosas from scratch, and had the nerve to get a condescending attitude with me and hector on about how much money I would save if only I would cook. Well, let’s say I were being paid to make a samosa at the same rate of payment I receive for my day job – that is, I’m being paid $30 an hour at, a minimum of, two hours. I needn’t supply the answer to this simple mathematics, I’m sure. My hostess, too, could have saved much time by simply making a quick trip to the North Indian Home Diner, and we, her guests, would have been just as happy, if not more so, with what appeared on her groaningly laden table.
An ex-boyfriend of mine saw my refusal to cook as yet more proof of what were clearly, even to me, my many limitations. He used to make a big deal about making dinner, martyredly chopping mushrooms when I couldn’t do it to his satisfaction, when what I wanted to do was buy risotto from the ‘gourmet takeaway’ down the road and so dispense both with the tense waiting and the washing up that his home cooking led to. Again, if you examine the real cost of this meal, that is, the hour at the supermarket buying the many groceries we didn’t happen to have around the house, and the wear and tear on such regard as my ex-boyfriend and I had for each other, the $10 I wanted to spend at the gourmet takeaway begins to seem like the best-spent $10 in the history of the world.
So, please, just let me have food that is, in any case, probably better than almost any home cook can prepare, and that isn’t accompanied by sulking and the spectre of having to do all the plate scraping in return for this treat. Lastly and as an aside, I find it particularly irksome when portly girls hold over me their skills in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how often one of them has said to me patronisingly, ‘Of course, you don’t cook.’ No, of course I don’t, but I would argue that I also don’t yet resemble Patty Duke in any of her six fat suits in Before and After.