I do not like cooking. This dates far back to my childhood when I was left alone in the house with my cousin and we were given the chance to make some jello for snack. I’d say it’s also dimly related to present experiences and abject laziness, but a lot of it has to do with one itty bitty screw up that I had as a child. It was barely even a blip on the radar, something that wouldn’t touch anyone else with a dislike of creating things in the kitchen, but it’s stuck with me and it’s given me an excellent excuse to never pick up a cooking utensil outside of a Krafts EZ Mac box.
I must have been thirteen. Thirteen was the age I did most of my stupid things. In fact, thirteen is the age when all people like to do their stupid things, though they save some stupidity for seventeen and twenty one but thirteen is the magical age of ‘no longer a kid mom, I’m a teenager now so now I can eat whatever I want‘. Also it’s the age when mothers are no longer allowed to use the ‘starving children in China’ ploy, not that this has ever worked, ever in the history of mankind, but they do it anyway because it’s an American tradition. Kind of like apple pie only futile and indicative of the last struggling efforts of a parent to kid their children to eat the hideous rubbery half cold green beans on their plate. Those are gross, mom, and God as my witness I will never eat them again. No amount of telling me I can’t have ice cream is going to stop me, because I have a job and can just cut out the middle man and buy my own ice cream.
Anyway, I was thirteen years old, and left alone in the house with my cousin, Melanie, to do as we pleased within certain restrictions. No setting the house on fire, don’t eat all the food in the house and clean up after yourself. Two out of three of these were accomplished, and you, dear reader, get to figure out which one it is when I’m through with this story. Me and Melanie had already gone past the point of no return in the house: she had told me she knew how to dye hair and I had agreed to let her dye mine blue. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Except my hair is red. As artistic as I am now, I was a moron back then, and forgot what red and blue make together. Oops. So my father called me sea hag until it all washed out, because my father is a loving, understanding father who knows how difficult it is to be a teenaged girl in a small town with a strict code of appearances that must be adhered to in the backwards cess pit of a school I went to. I was already in trouble because I wasn’t bleach blonde and stupid, now I was green and socially awkward. But that is a story for another time.
After the dye job, we putzed around downstairs looking for something to do. It was my cousin who remembered that my mother had given us the okay to make the jello. I was so excited. I loved jello, like really loved jello. What’s not to love about jello? It’s delicious, it’s sugary, it’s like semi-solid kool aid that you don’t have to chew. Never be sacrilegious and sully a good jello by putting fruit in it. Leave it unhealthy and sugary and clean, the way God intended jello to be. Though feel free to put alcohol in it, because God also loves parties.
My cousin told me to mix it all up and pour it in the bowl. I don’t know why I had to do it. Was it because this was my house? I’m not a hostess, this isn’t my job. If anything she should have mixed it for me because I was older and more experienced in life and also I didn’t like cooking back then either. It should have been her job, but the task fell on my shoulders. I don’t know if it was a subconscious ploy to make her suffer for her decision or if I was just an idiot. I mixed the stuff together in cold water, then boiled it, then stuck it in the fridge for an hour, and she did not stop me. She did nothing as I ruined our snack, and so the blame also falls on her shoulders just as much as mine. How dare she entrust me with such a delicate job. I didn’t know what I was doing, wasn’t that obvious? I don’t read directions! Directions are for old people who need to read them with bifocals and stand in the kitchen for well over an hour because they don’t understand how the instructions can ask them to boil for ten minutes when that will just clearly overcook the pasta and Jerry where did you put my dentures? I had them right here three minutes ago. Is it under the fifty cats we have? Well don’t move them, you don’t move a cat, Jerry. I’ll gum my food tonight.
No. No directions for me, because I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal. So of course, snack was ruined and my cousin teased me for no longer than a decade. It is still ongoing to this day on the rare occasion that I see her. ‘Did you make this? How? Did you threaten Gorden Ramsey with a shotgun?’
I use this excuse to this day. I can’t cook, I ruined jello. How can I cook if I can’t even get jello right? That’s right I can’t. My mom thought living on my own would eventually force me into making meals for myself, but really all it did was put me on a diet of all sandwiches and microwave lunches. If I really wanted to get fancy I’d fire up the oven and unthaw the breaded chicken nuggets I had in the freezer. I didn’t care. I could happily live off garbage for the rest of my life and no one would be there to shame me about it. Except mom, who would occasionally call and ask me if I had eaten something healthy for dinner. To be fair, I never lied to her. I always told her what I ate. And then there would be a sigh, and a reminder of ‘garbage in, garbage out’, but I assured her I had access to a pharmacy that sold laxatives and stool softeners so appreciate the concern but I’ll be super okay.
On the off chance that my mother does make me cook, it is a laborious task that is deeply unloved. This is because I am lazy and at any point in time can be easily distracted by almost anything at all under the sun, from my computer that I have to bring into the kitchen with me because god forbid I not watch my shows for ten minutes, to motes of dust floating about in the kitchen air. Even motes of dust are more interesting than cooking. Even washing dishes is better than cooking, because at least you cannot, with ordinary water and dish washing liquid, set off the smoke alarm. I manage to get mine started if I’m about five feet away from a spatula. I am the anti cook. If I was a vampire, you wouldn’t ward me away with garlic, you’d set out an empty pot with some unskinned potatoes and I promise, I would never come to your house. Much like sunlight burns the unholy beast, my skin sizzles like fat in a frier when my mother asks me if I want to do the cooking tonight. That’s usually answered by loud, forced laughter and me walking backwards towards the stairs to my room, never breaking eye contact and never ceasing with the Stepfordian laughter. I do not cook.
Now, my mother is a domestic goddess. In a feat of super human strength and agility, she makes time for both work, and the house, cleaning, cooking and caring for the family like it’s the easiest thing on the planet. As far as I know, my mother has never ruined a dish in her entire life, starting from when she first picked up a serving spoon and continuing on into infinity. She’ll sometimes complain that she didn’t make a dish well, but this is a clever ruse to make her seem fallible and modest. My mother is an excellent cook, and has tried, without success, to craft me into the dish washing, floor cleaning, food making real live human being for years. I have stubbornly remained lodged somewhere between cave man and ape, eating most things raw and things I cannot eat raw are left alone for some far more capable soul to cook. If my mom decided to stop feeding me one day and let me feed myself, I would instantly fall back on sandwiches and salads. On the off chance that she makes it impossible for me not to cook, I grind my way through it like I’m behind the counter at the DMV. There is no joy, only cooking, and I count the seconds until I am free to wander back to my dark cave of a bedroom lit only by the glow of my laptop and continue writing about people doing the ding dang. My mom tried. She tried so hard. Even my grandmother tried. My grandmother tried to teach me how to sew and clean and cook and I held strong through all her lessons and did not learn a thing. She even tried to teach me about eating like a lady. To make a long story short, I still eat like a starvation victim given a trough of food and five minutes. But she tried! And that’s the important thing.
So, I’ll ever be the five star cook my mom apparently had in her visions of me as a child, just like I am not a dancer, I’m not a piano player and I’m not a MENSA member. I just tacked this on to the long string of disappointments and there are bound to be more, like how I can’t see dirt and cops come in from across the country to sit on the highway whenever I go out for a drive. But at least I’m happy with me. I don’t need to know how to cook to live. Probably. Maybe. I’ll figure it out one day.