Culinary Queen (in training)
Four years ago I was crumpled on my kitchen floor, sobbing dramatically while on the phone with my boyfriend-at-the-time. I was wailing about not being a “real adult” due to stuffing up one of those easy, convenient packet meals. There was rice all over the floor and a pan had flung somewhere in the vicinity of the laundry.
I was hundreds of kilometres away from home, from my mother and culinary-queen-bee, and 24 year old me was feeling completely unprepared for life as an independent woman. I’d freshly moved out of my family home all the way out into the sticks with the very real, though also hilarious-in-hindsight, fact that I was a terribly tragic, useless cook.
Despite the dramatic narration, my skills really were that bad. I made a friend who was a home economics teacher and she looked at me sympathetically the night we made homemade pizzas. My friends have children that are more capable at preparing a meal than I was at that point in my life.
To further cement the idea of just how incompetent I was as a cook, here’s a few more examples:
I forgot that the twistie ties on freezer bags had metal in them until I saw some small sparks in the microwave.
Less than five years ago, I literally googled how to boil an egg.
When I was 21 I tried to impress a boy by making his favourite meal: roast pork. I banished him to the room where his xbox lived (as you can imagine, he wasn’t at all cut up about it) and set about impressing this boy, pleading with the universe to make my inner domestic goddess suddenly appear. The mission, and I chose to accept it, involved a roast pork, an apple chutney and some roast potatoes. Pretty simple, right? I managed to make the chutney and potatoes without burning the house down and the pork meat itself was actually edible however I had completely failed at making the crackling. Miserably. So much so that this boy called his mother and stated, “Yeah, she’s ruined it. How do I fix it?”
Several people I have since met, who enjoy cooking, have suggested that I could have simply cut off the crackling and put it in the grill. His mother had however agreed that it was unsalvageable and I ate it silently with tears rolling down my cheeks while watching him play Call of Duty, opting to go without rather than eat my cooking.
At the time, I’d felt destined to survive on my childhood staples: chicken nuggets, Nutella smothered on “four bits, no lids” and cheerios. It was really deflating.
Despite my many failures in the kitchen throughout my adult life however, I’ve always seemed to somehow find another recipe to ‘have a go’ at. I don’t specifically remember my first successful culinary adventure but each attempt has gradually given me skills to build upon.
I’ve also had kinder, more supportive dinner guests. I’ve learned to judge a recipe’s complexity in comparison to my skill level which, I’m thrilled to report, has surpassed ‘survival mode’ since the day I cried about a rice packet exploding in my hands as I knocked the fry pan off the stove top.
Learning to cook has been a slow, painful and emotional process but it’s also become one of my greatest joys.
I delight in the first moment of salivating over the food-porn filled recipe book or blog. I relish the challenge of working out and juggling the different cooking times.
The best bit though? The moment my current, amazingly supportive and food-loving boyfriend says, “you’ve outdone yourself, babe.”
To me, cooking is several hours where I get to put my energy into trying to be better at something and the feeling of sharing my success ignites my whole soul.