Why You Hate Cooking

Jan 22, 2018 | Food and Culture

I hear all the time from people who say that they hate cooking. Usually, these same people will also say they can’t cook. This always brings to mind the old chicken and egg question. Do they hate cooking because they can’t cook, or can they not cook because they hate cooking? People have a tendency to hate things that they aren’t immediately good at. If it doesn’t come easy it’s stupid. This is especially true with cooking and I find the reason why is pretty simple. The perception of cooking is that it should be easy because people have done it forever. Some kids can cook really well, so can some teenagers, and some boys, and some girls, and some moms, and some dads. The point being, the perception is that cooking is something anyone can do, so if a person isn’t immediately good at it it’s immediately stupid, and they immediately hate it. The question arises, do they actually hate cooking or do they hate feeling like a failure, or inadequate?

I have learned that people have an innate desire to cook whether they realize it or not. Even a guy who claims he can’t cook anything will often also claim that he is a grill master extraordinaire. Barbecuing is cooking. Beyond that, it has been my experience that in general people really do want to cook. Sometimes all it takes is one positive experience to make them realize for themselves that they actually do like cooking, they just don’t like sucking at cooking. The key is helping people to make positive connections between themselves and cooking, and demystifying the fancy and complicated techniques.

If you have no experience in cooking reading and following a recipe can seem very daunting. Recipes are generally written with the assumption that the reader has some amount of culinary knowledge. There is a shorthand that is used, a different language really. Techniques are named but rarely described, measurements are listed as cups, spoons, pinches, and weights. If a person has zero experience in cooking they don’t know what a cup or a tbsp is. They don’t know what it means to sear, or braise, or roast.  The thing is though, these things are all really easy to learn and execute. There are very few things in cooking that are actually complicated when you really look at them. The things that are really complicated are entirely unnecessary for a home cook to know.

Let’s talk about braising for example. To the untrained eye braising can seem like magic. A tough unpalatable piece of meat goes in, and a few hours later a flavourful, melt in your mouth piece of meat comes out. The perception being that because it takes a long time to do, it must be complicated. In reality, there is maybe fifteen or twenty minutes of active time and the rest is passive, meaning you don’t have to do anything for three hours. The active time is just a series of basic procedures completed in a certain order to yield the best results.

Cooking, no matter how complicated, really is just a few core principles and techniques used over and over in different sequences. What I’m saying is that if you learn five to ten things you can cook an unlimited number of things. It’s like playing guitar, if you learn how to play G, C, and D you can play thousands of songs. The only really difficult part of all of this is actually convincing someone who says they hate cooking to give it a shot. People are afraid to look stupid, especially in front of people they care about. I would argue however, that an adult that can’t feed themselves looks a lot more stupid than one who tries and fails. Failing is learning, even today, after eighteen years working with food I still make things that don’t work out sometimes. I learn from that, I grow, and I don’t make the same mistake twice. Everyone can learn to cook and everyone should.

 

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