I have this vision. I am humming and cutting fresh herbs from the window box (where they grow all year round) and throwing them into a salad or some kind of fancy marinade. I have shopped for my cheese at a local farmer’s market and everything is free range and organic and gourmet. I grow the zucchini myself in a garden out back and also the tomato. I sip at a glass of white wine—something decent but not decadent–as I cook, and listen to some opera or maybe a bit of jazz. My hair sits stylishly on top of my head and my slim-fitting ensemble of jeans and silk (or perhaps cashmere?) t-shirt are partially covered with a Parisian-looking apron. My husband stands nearby, washing the dishes in advance and our daughter sits peacefully reading Homer, Dickens or perhaps Naomi Klein. Dinner is timed perfectly and we all sit down together, savor the food, discuss cultural issues and enjoy each other’s company.
And then there’s reality. There is no window box because we cannot keep plants alive in this house and even if by some miracle there were herbs, I would probably cut myself with the scissors, burn the sauce, yell at my poor husband, stick my child in front of a (brain-cell-killing) DVD, spill the burnt sauce down the front of my pants and drink the entire bottle of wine. If there were dessert anywhere, I’d polish that off too. If I’d actually managed to shop at a farmer’s market it would have been two weeks ago and everything would already have gone bad, except perhaps the cheese, which I would also eat. And I would not be looking all casually elegant or any kind of European, much less Parisian, either. My hair would be sticking out all over the place and there would be pasta in it, there would be no apron, I’d have a greasy handprint somewhere on my chest and I would stand hissing and swearing and possibly crying in the middle of the kitchen. Dinner would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or take-out. And that’s just one meal.
This might be on the extreme end, as examples go, but cooking stresses me out. First, I never have all the groceries I need when I need them. Second, I dislike chopping things. Third, I hate having a mess and there seems to be no way to cook without making one and if you try to “clean as you go” something inevitably burns or melts or goes putrid while you’re doing it. Fourth, I hate having to follow a recipe, but that’s the only way things ever turn out. Fifth, no matter how many times I follow a recipe, I can never seem to commit it to memory so cooking makes me feel stupid. Sixth, cooking takes FOREVER and I never think to cook until I’m already starving. Seventh, you put in all that effort and then, instead of winning all kinds of awards for you major achievement, people just eat the food and you’re back to where you started with the addition of a big mess to clean up. And that’s if whatever you’ve cooked actually turns out, which is a big “if” in my case.
But clearly, a woman cannot live on frozen dinners, grilled cheese and take-out and expect to thrive. Not to mention that I have a husband (who would cook except for his crazy work hours) and a child who (at nineteen months) is too young for Dickens (much less chef school where we could get her trained up to feed us) and needs to be provided with good nutrition and decent-tasting meals.
So I want to learn how to cook. Well, that’s not quite true. I want to want to learn how to cook. At the very least, I want there to be cooking. Somehow. I’m taking advice from all corners and no solution is beneath consideration at this point. Any ideas?