My Pretty Pennies left me a comment (following yesterdays meme) asking how I managed to go from hating cooking to considering it a hobby (of sorts). I started trying to leave a reply and then realised I couldn’t summarise my answer in a few quick sentences. However, I did think it was a really good question and particularly relevant because it was mostly a change born out of necessity to fit in with trying to live on less. So my post today is inspired by MPP…
I wouldn’t exactly say I love cooking. I actually used to hate trying to make a cooked meal. And I really mean hate it. I’d get stressed out, things would go wrong and then I’d end up feeling I’d wasted food and a lot of time and avoid the whole thing. I should tell you that, in my time, I’ve blown up a casserole dish (it wasn’t the kind you can use on the hob as it turned out) and set fire to the grill with pecan nuts. I tell you this to be clear on where I was starting out from! I’d give myself various challenges, like making a new recipe once a week or even once a month but I’d invariably get bored of the idea and never get past the first recipe. Trying to change has been a gradual process which has come about by:
Sorting out the kitchen
My kitchen is very small and used to be a cluttered nightmare. About a year ago I tackled it by clearing the cupboards of all equipment I knew I would never actually use or was broken etc, gave everything a good clean, arranged everything so I could find things easily and threw away all of the out of date food. Basically I gave myself a clean slate. I gave the walls a lick of white paint, got Husband to put up some shelves (which makes it easier to get at things, like pasta in storage jars, and also freed up a lot of cupboard space) and bought a digital radio. This all cost well under £100 but it meant that the kitchen was suddenly a much nicer place to hang out and potter around. Obviously you don’t have to spend any money at all – a good clear out would have done the job! Either way, it was important to make it a space I didn’t mind being…
Back to basics
I think I used to come unstuck because I looked for ideas in recipe books. While I still like a good cookery book, for me, they mostly contain recipes that are more for special occasion meals and not every day stuff. I found them complicated and they often called for weird or expensive ingredients that I was never just going to have to hand. So I decided to ignore them and learn how to make simple things like soups, casseroles and a few sauces. I asked friends and family what they were making for dinner and asked them how they were going to prepare it. By doing so, I picked up all sorts of tips, from poaching salmon to wrapping chops in foil parcels and popping them in the oven. Really basic stuff. In terms of sweet stuff I stopped trying to make fancy desserts (or buying them) and instead learned really easy things like flapjacks, fruit crumble and banana loaf. And I kind of built up from there. It became much more satisfying and productive because it is easy to get good results out of simple things. I go through phases of making things, go off them for a bit and then come back to them. A bit of trial and error lead to various discoveries such as realising I was quite good at making basic pastry – cue lots of quiches, tarts and so on. By getting to grips with really, really basic things it all started to get a bit easier and cooking became more instinctive – getting the timing right so everything would be ready at the same time, what extras I might be able to throw in a pot which would work (rather than tasting weird) and so on. Because it got easier I didn’t hate it as much. In fact, it became sort of fun.
Learning to like it!
Because my kitchen has a nicer feel to it and because I’ve slowly built up what I can do and have gained some confidence I enjoy cooking much more. It isn’t stressful and I know I can make something actually worth eating. I still don’t like cooking in the evening, particularly after a days work. It is one of the reasons I like making things at the weekend and then freezing portions (aside from it being the cheaper option). Weekend cooking feels like a leisure activity – evening cooking still feels like hassle. Husband and I share ‘evening’ cooking duties pretty much equally which helps.
It really has been a case of adjusting my mindset. I wanted to be able to cook more because I simply prefer wholesome, home-made food to pre-prepared stuff and also because we had planned for children one day and wanted to be able to feed them well. It also really is cheaper – we’ve saved a small fortune. You might recall my recent estimate that we saved £1300 on food comparing my budget from 2008 to 2009.
I am still a long, long way off being a good cook but at least I now have a reasonable level of competance. Things don’t get burned/go lumpy/get cold before everything else is ready. Anyway – when it came to cooking I firmly decided that I was just going to learn to like it. I get a great sense of accomplishment from being able to make something from scratch (or almost from scratch – I still prefer white sauce from a jar when I’m making lasagne!) and also from seeing my freezer stocked up with home-made goodies. Perhaps I enjoy this sense of accomplishment more, or as much as, the act of cooking in itself. As for baking, I’ve always found that fun. I mean, who doesn’t like cakes?!
So I suppose I came to like cooking because I stopped being intimidated by it and started finding it a bit more interesting and worthwhile.
How about you folks? Do you like cooking or is it a chore?!