Sunday, July 23, 2017

Why I Hate Cooking

I never understood why people actually enjoy cooking and was dumbfounded, growing up, seeing so many people actually looking joyful cooking, sharing recipes and the like, with true enthusiasm.

I was even more skeptical regarding the true joys of cooking,  as no one really answers WHY they love the process. When people are asked on television shows why they love cooking, they all answer that it's "because we get to eat the food at the end", but never saying why the act of cooking itself is intrinsically fun. My rebuttal is always, "Well, I love eating food too, but I don't love cooking". I mean, who doesn't like eating?

Since that didn't lead to any answers, I then asked my friends why they enjoy cooking, and they note that it's addictive and soothing to dice the onions and garlic. I can see it being meditative and fun. I'm assuming the chopping sounds and feel of dicing and the like is the same addictive feel that I get from combat sounds or the crunching sounds of my playable character walking in Dark Souls

The other explanation is that it's a chemistry experiment, and I remember the process of combining things in the lab was interesting (i.e. seeing the solute trickling out and so forth). Lastly, my friends like the nurturing component of cooking, being able to be creative and use ingredients they prefer.

Therefore, as these are real answers that made sense to me, I felt that I was missing something vital, so I took a basic cooking class, focused on knife skills training, at my local school of culinary arts. I told the student chef-in training that I literally didn't know anything about cooking, and like most people, she thought I was over-exaggerating until she instructed me to sautee the onions, and I asked her "What's sautee?", and she had that OMG look on her face that was rather amusing.  

We then went over the differences between cubes, dicing, and mincing. This was not fun. I wanted to be able to cut the onion in those perfect, beautiful cube shapes, as the more uniform the shapes are (i.e. perfect cubes), the flavors get distributed more evenly. I think that's why Lebanese salads were a revelation, because all the ingredients are chopped in these exact cubed-shapes, so the dressing can be distributed evenly, leading to uniformity in flavors, as opposed to having one piece being drenched with dressing, and then the next lop-sided piece not having any dressing on it.

I then discussed with my instructor that it took me over an hour to dice a medium-sized onion, and she said I must be doing something wrong. Indeed, it was rather trying to spend this much time, tears running down my face, but nevertheless coming up with rather substandard, irregular shapes.

One can use the food processor, but the point is, I don't find using the food processor intriguing either, and in fact, cutting onions manually seems more fun, exactly due to the meditative nature of chopping. Furthermore, you have to do the boring job of cleaning the food processor.

After the effort, time, and the costs of all the ingredients, the food never turns out good. In fact, whenever I steam vegetables, they all come out rubbery that even my friend, who's a vegetarian and hates throwing things out, couldn't eat it, and we end up throwing the dish away.

That's where the problem lies. It's a waste to spend a lot of money (and a lot of the recipes end up having one ingredient, of which you have to buy a whole bottle's worth of spices, to never use that spice again), and if the food turns out bad, which invariably is the case with me, I end up throwing out the food, which is such a huge waste!


For the same end results, to "save time", I might as well just burn a hundred dollars, and even that has the virtue of NOT wasting food that can feed others. I say hundred dollars, because a lot of recipes have dozens of ingredients that you have to buy all over again.

While it's true that anyone CAN be good at cooking, we just need to practice. However, by practicing, that means you have to spend a lot of money on ingredients, which will most likely go to waste, with one bad dish being made after another.  Do I really want to waste thousands and thousands of dollars and food (although we can possibly give the food to the birds) to see if I can be a good cook? I'd rather spend that money on paying bills.

The solution for me is to save money, prevent waste, and therefore NOT cook.  I sympathize with the comedian, Maria Bamford, when her friends tell her encouragingly that she can follow this simple recipe, but as soon as they give her the direction, "Preheat the oven", Bamford is like "Noooo!!". Those are my exact feelings: whenever my friend keeps saying, "we can easily make that", I'm like "Noooo!!".

Conclusion: Those who love to cook and cook well are extremely impressive. 

The How of Happiness Review

4 comments:

  1. I actually love cooking, buncha different reason's for it. For me it's comparable a lot to gaming, I seek a challenge when I play a lot of games, while I'm still happy just chilling and playing games to relax, I also find a lot of enjoyment in taking the game super seriously and trying to become a better player, it's the same with me and cooking. I love making and perfecting new recipe's, trying new ingredient's. Naturally after several years practice, I learned a bunch of trick's, I got used to the motion's, and now I'm actually a pretty good cook.

    A good analogy would be comparing me learning a dish, to me beating a boss in dark souls, I get the same feeling of accomplishment from it. I start out simple, cut any extra's and spices from the recipe, just try and get the main part of the dish right. Then I try adding ingredient's, see what works best and what doesn't fit the occasion so well. Finally commit it to memory, maybe write it down if I need to, and practice it a bunch until I can do it with minimal waste and exactly how I like it.

    -CheesusAlmighty

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  2. very impressive re:cooking ventures! I find cooking infinitely more difficult than any Dark Souls boss or the most difficult platforming games, b/c the combination is effectively infinite down to the ingredients, portions of ingredients, amt of heat, how long to heat ingredients, technique of heat (i.e. fry, bake, grill etc) it's just endless.

    The process and challenge of cooking are not fun for me, and usually I love challenges. Cooking and me just don't mix!

    I would put gardening in the same category as cooking--very difficult and challenging, but not fun. Plus the guilt of killing plants is even worse than wasting food!

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  3. Hmm, this is difficult to respond to in earnest. I agree with the point of others: "It's meditative!" and, "it's like science!" And I assure you, I once struggled to cut/dice/mince etc. whichever fruit/veggie...

    For me, a big component is that I was terribly picky as a child. Then, one of my first jobs was working in a kitchen, as a prep-cook, at around age 15. I would make things involving tomatoes (which I loathed, outside of pizza-sauce), and I would put them away in their jar/container to marinate... I would take them out, two days later, and the smell was phenomenal! Then I would taste the thing... and, voila! My mind was opened to tomatoes.

    These occurrences were regular, for me, working in a kitchen. Learning to cook - to prepare food, in a professional kitchen - opened my mind to foods and to flavor, in general (read: pesto, hollandaise... everything!) And, because it was in a professional kitchen, recipes were followed precisely, and with guidance. So I never (errr... seldom) had that experience of, "no matter what I did... everything came out horribly!"

    (I promise, when I tried to replicate things at home, they were disasters that not even my pets would touch, more often than not... at least for a LONG ASS TIME...)

    Later, as an adult, I don't cook all the time for myself (especially as a single person). But the skills I learned earlier on in professional kitchens rendered into a repertory of skills and recipes such that I could prepare foods for family and friends. There is nothing like, say, being ready to graduate college and throwing a dinner party for your favorite professors and their partners, at your house... I will tell you that story, because it illustrates...

    I had this group of esteemed-to-me people over, and I served five or so courses to them. The final course was a chocolate mousse that I chilled in deep rings and placed solid-dark-chocolate wafers atop (perfectly sized, bc I use the same rings from the ring-mould to outline onto the wax paper the form-of-the-ring, which i then reversed, then painted the warmed-chocolate onto the paper within the outlines, with a pastry brush... as the wafers cooled, I stamped them with a bouguereau angel that I had a paper-weight wax-press of, using another layer of wax paper to keep things clean) and garnished exquisitely with bourbon-chocolate sauce, creme anglais, hand-whipped cream, and mint leaves.

    To finally have a group of people such as that gawk and express that they wish they could be so grown-up/sophisticated in taste and ability as I was, some day, was kind of out of this world. Yes, there's an ego-component, there, in that one sentence, but I assure you, please... that's not the point! The point is delight! The point is doing little tiny things over a course of time to bring a small moment of delight to others, and curiosity/wonder, too (read: how did you do this???) It's... being the tooth fairy, or santa, or some other secret/silent "muse" who gives a sense of wonder, both in taste and in imagination, to others.

    Your own food will never taste as good to you as it will to others. And part of the beauty lies therein, as well, I think. It's a selfless thing, which is why, at least for me, needs others to be enjoyable.

    That's probably not the whole story (who could ever tell that?) but maybe some other hints at what it's like for one who enjoys. :-)

    (also - editing within a two-line window a narrative is tricky - apologies in advance changes in voice and other grammos/typos... I hope the points remain.)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your cooking experiences! I think the issue is that you have talent and love of cooking, as well as professional guidance, whereas I have no talent, hate of cooking and no guidance.

      The Bok Choy I made for my friend had rubbery, NEGATIVE mouth feel to the point where my friend couldn't eat it (though I think he forced himself to take a couple of bites), so even though he hates waste, it had to be thrown away.

      You should definitely have pride in your cooking prowess! It's so hard to coordinate multi-course meals!!!

      Cheers Theerinoliver!!!!

      Alice

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