What Happened In My Head
When I Realized
I Was Never Going to Be a Cook
my non-cook heritage
After a while of earnestly pursuing my No More Not Cooking project --- earnestly trying to learn to cook --- I realized it wasn’t clicking. I wasn’t really getting it. The floodgates of food related confidence and ability did not open. Nothing poured forth. I realized that I was not a natural, to say the least, and in fact I was getting pretty grumpy/grouchy about the whole thing. On top of the grumpy/grouchiness, there was a hint of panic. The internal monologue went something like this:
Will this condition persist forever, no matter how many individual dishes I learn to cook? Will I ever be able to extrapolate? What about the terrible day when I can no longer claim to be unable to cook because I know how to cook too many things, even if that knowledge is totally superficial and isolated dish to dish? What about the other terrible day when I am forced to admit that I have reached my potential and that it isn’t that I don’t know how to cook, it’s that I am not a good cook? Will I ultimately fall into the gap between information (knowing how to cook the dishes) and skill (cooking them with ease and style)? Will I further tumble into the sink of artlessness – meal after meal of gloomy food weighing down the table, albeit undeniably cooked!
I was faced with an image of my maternal grandmother, known by one and all including her grandchildren as Marge. Marge froze lettuce and drank hot water with nothing in it but a tablet of sweet n’ low --- she really, really could not cook in the sense that the food she prepared and served was as a rule almost completely inedible, but she believed, heart and soul, that her food was utterly delicious and would go on and on about its merits even though, when I think about it, the only things I can remember ever seeing her eat were dry melba toast and handfuls of the pastel colored chocolate covered mints they had in a silver bowl in the hallway near the powder room at her golf club in Cleveland, Ohio -- mints she seduced my grandfather into filching by the sandwich baggie every time he went to the club for his Saturday foursome. I knew that dwelling on Marge would frighten me away from any more kitchen adventures on the basis of genetics. It made much more sense to think of myself lining up behind my paternal grandmother, Lillian, aka Gram. First of all, she is over 100 years old. Over 100! She quit smoking in her 70s and used to prefer popcorn (until it started to present a choking hazard…) as a stand-in for dinner. Can she cook? Who knows! Can or cannot is hardly the issue: she doesn’t. I mean, it’s natural that she doesn’t now because she is over 100 years old, but as far as I know, she never has. She doesn’t like to cook! And I’ve never heard her apologize for or even comment in any way on that situation. She knows what she’s about. In my experience, when faced, for example, with company coming, she calmly telephoned Leni and Corky’s, the deli she favors near her apartment in Beachwood, Ohio and ordered a plate of cold cuts. The interior monologue continued:
I’m not going to get all freaked out. If ever there comes a day when I can no longer hide behind the prairie of my cooking ignorance, if ever there comes a day when I have to admit that I do, technically, sort of know how to cook, if ever there comes a day when I must come completely clean and make true kitchen confessions about why, after all this fuss, I am still not really cooking, I will take a deep breath and square my shoulders and think of Gram and not stress about how much cooking stresses me out. I will not make a big deal. I will just go pop some popcorn.OK.
The popcorn has been popped. I am no longer under the delusion that I can or should change from a non-cook to a cook, a good one or otherwise. Instead, I am proceeding as a proud, confirmed non-cook!