On Being A Terrible Cook With Good Intentions

In this morning's Dirt Bag, I posted a quote from Robert Pattinson, who admitted that the only thing he can cook is toast. A few commenters pointed out that anyone can cook, provided they can follow directions. I disagree!

My younger sister is a professional chef. My older sister bakes the kind of desserts that are so beautiful to look at, you don't want to eat them (but then you do, and they are delicious). And then there's me. I can microwave like nobody's business. You like popcorn? I got your popcorn. C'mon-a my house, crew.

It isn't that I haven't tried, mind you. There are a few things I'm decent at: if cooking were a video game, I'd probably be a noob with a level 2 skill in making spinach-feta omelets and potato-leek soup, which both require the ability to dump a bunch of ingredients into a pan/pot and pray for the best. But my own lack of culinary ability unfortunately ties in with the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder for most of my 20s, including those crucial post-college years where one moves into an apartment for the first time and learns to cook for oneself on a serious level, and even though I've been in recovery for over five years now, I find the entire thing so intimidating that I stick to making basic things for myself and leaving the real meals in the hands of professionals or my boyfriend, who actually enjoys the process.

The few times I've attempted to cook a full dinner on my own resulted in a Beezus and Ramona-esque comedy of errors: stuff spilled all over the floor, undercooked sides, over cooked main portions, etc. I'm learning, so it's expected. But I'm also not about to waste food, so I end up eating my "experiments," which is another thing that puts me off of cooking entirely. But I'm still trying, because it is such a basic and essential life skill that effects the quality of one's life in so many ways: health-wise, financially, etc. And also? Popcorn stinks up the whole house and I'd rather have the smell of fresh herbs than faux-butter reeking up my house.

I don't think I'm the only one out there who follows the directions with frustrating results, either: entire culinary industries have popped up around those of us who want to "cook" but can't seem to figure it out, which is why Sandra Lee and her habit of dumping a packet of salad dressing mix into sour cream and acting like she's just invented some amazing homemade dip appeals to so many. It's fast, it's not really cooking, and it's hard to fuck it up. There's even currently a show on TLC called "Inedible to Incredible," wherein well-intentioned chefs are schooled by an expert, who turns their craptacular homemade "specialties" (which, hilariously enough, are all verrrry Sandra Lee-inspired) into something that doesn't make other people want to throw up. Some people are bad at dancing. Some people are bad at singing. And some of us really suck at cooking (even those of us who avoid Sandra Lee's style and try to use fresh ingredients).

So what about you, commenters? Did you have trouble learning how to cook for yourself? And if so, how did you get past it? And do you have any advice for people just starting out on their own?

[Image via Shutterstock.]