The art of not knowing how to cook. Still a dick. Kindness really does go a long way.

I sometimes want to make fun of people who don't know the basics of cooking. Two people I know in particular, both of whom are 45 years old. One, Jesse's ex-roommate, who only recently learned how to brown meat. Another, a mutual friend of Jesse's and I's, who only recently learned a bowl of cereal can, indeed, be used as a full meal anytime during the day.

Both of these men are learning how to cook in exactly the same way I did: by finding themselves living alone for the first time in their lives.

This is the situation I found myself in at the age of 32 when I broke up with David. I had no idea how to do anything BUT brown meat and have cereal for dinner. I lived off cereal and pizza for the first entire three months after the breakup. I did eventually come to the conclusion that a grown woman should be able to make a meal that involves more than two ingredients.

But even now, at 35, I'm only a cook un novice. I can work magic with tortilla dishes, make a wicked cheeseburger pie, and know how to get creative with tuna. Anything else? I leave it untouched, terrified and annoyed that I'll likely burn it, undercook it, not realize its gone bad, ruin dishes with terrible combinations of spices, etc etc.

Still, the gaps in learning are sometimes dumbfounding. Jesse's ex-roommate, ever the annoying weasley man, once exclaimed "I had no idea cooking could save money! I'm only spending $140 a week on fast food now!"

Dude, if you're spending 140 dollars a week on fast food - and that is a REDUCTION of money you've been spending on fast food - you're doing something wrong. This is the same guy who has said to Jesse more than once and deadpan, (after 20 YEARS of them living together) that I'm going to die and he will not be able to help Jesse at all.

The man pays no bills but his own, has absolutely NO debt, pays the same rent and utilities that we do, has a functional vehicle that he's not pouring money into, makes over 30 thousand a year, and has an empty living room that could easily fit a single air mattress for a friend to sleep in for a while. (At least if the man bothered to take out his trash once in a while, which he does not.)

And somehow he can't "help" his "best friend" of 20 fucking years, refusing Jesse even a place to stay for a week should something horrible happen to me. All this WHILE ALSO feeling constantly compelled to tell Jesse that I will die soon and that Jesse will be alone.

Seriously, what a dick. There are just not enough dicks in the world to describe how dickish this man is.

David also had a moment that utterly befuddled me. The man had been cooking for MONTHS at the time, making steaks and burgers and chili and whatnot. He did not know how to cook before dating me but discovered he liked to cook and dove into the art enthusiastically. One dinner, however, he asked me how to boil water.

I was like, uhhhhh whaaat? Even I had mastered the art of boiling water by my 30's. I still don't get how he had gotten to be a good cook without knowing how to boil water. I'm also still grateful that he cooked for me, faithfully and daily, every day for the entire 5 years we were together.

Still a dick, but less of a dick. Concerning cooking and pep talks, at least. David never said anything like what Jesse's "friend" said and NEVER would say something like that to anyone, abusive and dickish as he was.

In the end, mocking them would be mocking MYSELF. (Except for Jesse's ex-roommate. He's a jerk and I'll mock him long and loud.) And while I try to stick to the saying of "If you're not laughing at yourself, you're missing out on the biggest joke in the world", there's only so much self-deprecation I'm willing to dance in.

The other friend is less afraid of learning how to cook, I think, and simply more afraid of living alone. That I can understand, having felt that terror for years, even while in a relationship where no amount of food could make up for the abuse dished out. Jesse and I, having both lived (and am currently living) well below the poverty line many, many times in our lives, give him resources, tips, and offers to accompany me to various food pantries.

Though he, too, is befuddled on how to live of the $800 a month AFTER all his bills are paid, which befuddles me, because jesus, if you have 800 left a month left over AFTER aaaalll your obligations are taken care of (bills, medication, rent, utilities, debts, taking care of others, etc)....I guess that just shows how poor I've been in my life.

He is much, much kinder to Jesse than his ex-roommate, however, and that goes a great way in our patience with him. Jesse will cook and offer dinner to this friend and our friend is happy to give away any extra food he has to us. I think the poor, or those who have had loved ones in poverty, understand the power of sharing more than anyone else.

(Not to say that poverty makes one noble. It doesn't. It makes us bitter and hungry. But there is the occasional gratitude - both given and taken - to be learned in poverty.)

I'd planned on writing something funnier, but at least this post isn't all lupus bitching and whining. So, here's to cereal for dinner, Hamburger Helper with well-browned hamburger, and tortillas.

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Ah, holidays bring about the topic of food... How could it be different? (*jokes*)

The most difficult task, I find, on cooking is spices.
It's not too difficult if you got the basic methods to get anything cooked (oven, pot, pan) 'cause turning anything from raw to that state works always, by all of those ways.
But spicing is a thing you've got to have your clues for what is done how and what spice works or even belongs to a certain ingredient or dish.
As all cooks do that differently, that's sometimes not as easy to find out in the fine tuning.
Big basic help, I already found, is the old big cookbook from the GDR, as it covers normal basic dishes done here in Central Europe, and sometimes researching things on the net.
I mention the big one 'cause there's been a little shorter version of it released a few decades later (the original is from the 60s) and sometimes it already misses a few texts and hints that are useful for anyone who starts with cooking. The shorter version is like for people who already know what they do.
Dishes often also follow a recipe in that book which I know in much, much more basic way - well, one doesn't know where they all took the recipes from, maybe that's a regional variation that I'm not used to because of not living there or never having seen anyone cook them like this. (Big example is caraway - most recipes that mention it as an ingredient are only done this way in more Southern regions like Saxony or Thuringia. Nothern lights don't eat ever caraway.)
Another advantage is if you once had a good cook you could watch doing his work. Especially if that cook learned everything from the basics on, without modern mixed spices or readily-fabricated sauces. A few things get stuck in your head just from watching it a thousand times.
Some things then you realize, why they get done this way, if you just do it yourself and get to perceive the tastes attached to the process.
Say, that's not like getting started entirely blank.
At least you know laurel leaves or pimento never make their way into a sweet dish like rice pudding. That's the kind of things what I mean.

How to generate taste with spices, that's the greatest piece of work to master on cooking I find.
I know you can generate spice by generating broth manually, by roasting things before you let them cook with other stuff in the same pot or by just letting them cook with a thing at all (bones in soups, e. g.; laurel leafs and pimento also work this way in genral; onions, if you don't like to bite on them, just rasp them or let them cook as a whole piece in the soup / sauce in a peeled state), but after that, the taste often is not entirely finished, what to put in to get a certain taste out of it which comes with the meal in general, that's stuff to really find out at first.
Ive always lived alone, whether i was dating someone or not.
Things i can cook/make: burgers, hot dogs, steak, french fries (home made from real potatoes), french bread pizza, sausage, fried chicken, bacon, fried eggs,pasta, waffles (also home made when i have a waffle iron) french toast, pancakes. And thats a pretty limited menu. But self taught! Its not hard to pick up a few things-most of these are just things you throw in a pan, trial & error, you get good at it.

Edited at 2017-04-18 03:58 pm (UTC)