Dear Beth

Dear Past Me: You Can Handle the Heat…Stay in the Kitchen.

Your cooking skills are rough. And they will get worse before they get better. I know because I have eaten the burnt rice, the quinoa that could crack a tooth, and the Hamburger Helper meals that managed to morph into pureed cheeseburger just by being in the oven. I’ve had more than my fair share of pots boiling over, Styrofoam melting in the microwave, and a meal consisting of solely a raw onion. You are likely at the point in life where you have accepted rice will always be dry and crunchy.

Many people will tell you that cooking is fun, and that it can be relaxing. You will feel stressed because “for Pete’s sake I’m 26 and can only cook noodles some of the time without them being either mushy or still crunchy, or stuck in the pot”. You will feel like it is impossible and everyone knows some trick that you don’t. Feeling like an idiot in the kitchen and grocery store will get you down, sure, but don’t let it hold you back. You will at one point feel like a failure as a woman, because people stereotypically expect you to know your way around a kitchen. And when you don’t they will be surprised and you will be surprised at how much failing to meet that expectation stings your confidence. Keep on trying and know that you are fully capable of learning how to cook decent food if you give yourself enough chances.

People will tell you that they will teach you how to cook. Don’t be discouraged when their idea of teaching you to cook is giving you a recipe they love. Someday you will be able to look at that recipe and know how to do it, but it takes practice and patience and time. They will tell you it is easy, but you look at the recipe and see at least 6 ingredients and start to panic. But there will be a day when you stop stressing so much about how many ingredients a recipe requires, andinsteadlook at how they are combined and how complicated the process is, rather than just focusing on how long the grocery list is.

What I’m finally starting to accept now is that my cooking disasters in the past (what you are living through now) can be lessons about how to do it better the next time. Cooking takes time, and I am very slow and cautious not to make even the slightest errors. But being so slow and cautious can also lead to burnt meals, or very dry meals that have been cooking too long. I’ve learned through all these trial and error meals that even for well-seasoned chefs, not everything turns out exactly how they want it. Not everything looks beautiful strait out of the oven. And most recipes taste nothing like the finished product if you taste them before they are finished.

I still wouldn’t consider myself a good cook. I still have cooking disasters now and again. And I still feel like an impostor in the grocery store that has no idea how to pick out decent vegetables. But the important thing is to keep trying. I try to keep pushing myself out of the noodle comfort zone because life is more than just pasta. There are all kinds of foods to eat and cook, and I do still believe that variety adds spice to life.  I still have to tell myself not to give up on it, one day I hope to say I can feed myself well, without feeling like my confidence has been rattled. I’m at the point today where I see cooking as a challenge. One that I can do well if I give myself a break and don’t hold all the mistakes of my cooking past with me.