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I approach cooking as if it isn’t a science (which it is), but as if it is my car (which it is not). I don’t think about cooking until I am hungry, and I don’t think about what went wrong until the food is already cooked. I also am not concerned if I don’t have an ingredient, because (I think) I am the master of substitutions, which is a lie I tell myself to avoid facing reality. I also don't think about my car until something goes wrong; until a light tells me I need to change my oil, or that my tire pressure is low. I don't get gas until my car beeps at me, and I once had tires so old the threads were showing. I didn't realize my threads were showing until I got a flat tire on my way to work, which I also didn't notice until my boss pointed it out, "Sarah," he said, "did you know you had a flat tire?" What a ridiculous question, honestly. After that, I purchased a AAA membership, and I also started scheduling oil changes every three months, whether I needed them or not.
Sometimes I feel bad for being a bad cook, especially since I'm dating a man who might like if I cooked for once. I actually did cook for him once, and he couldn't stop telling me how nice it was. "It was so nice having you cook for me," he said, with his feet up and a glass of white wine in his hand. Of course it's nice, I thought, which is why I like to be the one sitting with my feet up with wine in my hand. He did do the dishes though, which seems like a fair trade of domestic labor.
"Do you mind that never cook for you Mike Mike?" I asked him one night. We were sitting on his couch and he just looked at me and said, "I don't really think about it," before turning back to his computer. He would have to cook for himself anyway, if I wasn't here. Plus, I reasoned, he's been feeding himself for decades. Maybe it's nice to feed someone else for a change, but probably not.
Growing up, my mother was always cooking. She had a rolodex of recipes, a few of which I loved to hate. Corned beef hotdish was my least favorite, and as a child, I had the gall to whine and complain whenever the hotdish graced our dinner table. She would always crunch up potato chips on the top of the dish, and I'd try to scoop a big spoonful of the crunchy top part to avoid the mushy noodles underneath. Now, if I cooked for someone and they had the nerve to complain about it, I might just lose all of my shit.
I can cook a pretty mean salmon fillet, and I can roast potatoes with the best of them. Oatmeal is pretty hard to mess up, as are eggs and toast-not that I haven't ruined many a slice of toast. The more ingredients a particular dish contains, the worse off I am, but less is not always better, a fact I learned the hard way when I made 2-ingredient pancakes. Just bananas and eggs, the recipe told me, in just the right ratio, and I'd have an easy, healthy breakfast. Maybe my ratios were off, but my pancakes stuck to my pan and were the consistency of silly puddy and tasted like I'd mixed eggs with bananas. The internet is full of bad ideas, I decided.
Women have historically been the ones to cook in heterosexual relationships, and they still are, whether or not they have kids. I understand that many people glean a lot of joy from feeding their loved ones. It's a very loving act, and pretty damn necessary for survival. There is a certain guilt though, in being a woman who hates to cook. It's not that I can't cook basic things, it's just not that interesting. And when I'm around groups of women, a few topics tend to dominate the conversation: men, children, cooking, clothes, hair, wrinkles. One of my former co-workers warned me that I'd never "get a man" if I didn't learn how to cook better, when she saw that I was eating oatmeal and carrot sticks for lunch. I thanked her for her not-so-subtle, antiquated notions of gender roles and avoided her during lunch.
Her comment annoyed me, but the reality is that I'd rather be doing a million other things rather than cook. I eat basic food that doesn't require a lot of prep. I'm never going to wow anyone with my culinary skills; man, woman, or otherwise. Being able to healthfully feed oneself shouldn't be an expectation that only falls on the shoulders of women anyway. If I was dating a man who needed me, or someone else, to cook for him, I'd be worried about his brain and his body. "Figure it out, Jeff," I'd say, before leaving him for a guy that can correctly boil a noodle.
It's not so much the idea of cooking for a man that bothers me, but rather the expectation that I need to or should. That part of my worth as a woman is tied up in how well I perform domestic tasks. If a man can't cook his own egg, I don't want that guy, and never did. Plus, I've inadvertently found one doesn't care about cooking anyway.