My friend, the very talented author Kate Payne, recently shared this Slate article with fans of her book, The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking: Cooking Isn’t Fun, But You Should Do It Anyway. There’s some discussion around whether or not we should be calling cooking a chore and then telling people to do more of it.
What I do like about this article is its honesty. As I’ve written here before, cooking is not always the fun, easy thing that some people who have the natural talents and inclination for it make it out to be. For the rest of us, it can be a drag, especially when you start out excited and energetic and after two hours you can’t eat the thing because you’ve screwed it up somehow.
The second myth is that cooking is easy. Making food quickly and well is easy once you know how to do it, but it is a learned skill, the acquisition of which takes time, practice, and the making of mistakes. To cook whole foods at a pace that can match box-meal offerings, one needs to know how to make substitutions on the fly; how to doctor a dish that has been overvinegared, oversalted, or overspiced; how to select produce and know how long you have to use it before it goes bad; how to stock a pantry on a budget. Without those skills, cooking from scratch becomes risky business: You may lose produce to rotting before you get the chance to cook it, or you may botch a recipe and find it inedible. Those mistakes are a natural part of learning to cook, but they will cost you and your family time, ingredients, and money without actually feeding you.
When the stories we tell about cooking say that it is only ever fun and rewarding—instead of copping to the fact that it can also be annoying, time consuming, and risky—we alienate the people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and we unwittingly reinforce the impression that cooking is a specialty hobby instead of a basic life skill.
What do you think? Do you love cooking, or hate it? Is it somewhere in between? I personally love the idea and romance of cooking (Did anyone else watch/read Julie and Julia and immediately want to cook through that cookbook too?) but don’t always enjoy the execution and hard work involved. I’d also probably jump out of my 4-story apartment window if I had to do it every night. (Thank God for a talented husband who actually enjoys cooking.) But I do like taking a new recipe on a weekend when I have a lot of free time and trying it out, especially when the results are good! 🙂