Why I don’t cook
July 7, 2019 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I said to my boyfriend, “Cooking is really stupid.” He said that he knew what I meant. I said that I was never cooking again. He said he thought that was a great idea. I said, “I have to make homemade tomato sauce with Christine on Saturday. And I have to make some more galettes because the last ones sucked.” “That sounds like a lot of cooking,” he said. “I know,” I said. “I’m going to make the galettes and the sauce, and then I am never cooking again.”
posted by Grandysaur (115 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
“Actually, it was like goldfish cum”

I'll be back once I've finished reading, but I had to share that, because it made me blurt out laughing.
posted by ambrosen at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2019 [9 favorites]

That was really good. And not really about cooking, so much.

(I also laughed out loud at "goldfish cum".)
posted by chavenet at 3:11 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sarah Miller’s writing is my new obsession, I stopped and laughed after every line. Growing up, I made so many unintentionally awful remarks to my mother about her (terrible) cooking, like the conversation about the pie. This piece evokes Laurie Colwin, which is one of the highest compliments I can give.
posted by sallybrown at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

I was hoping this would share with me a feasible plan for not having to cook but it didn't. Also lately I have an extreme intolerance of hearing about the ways that rich people's lives are so fucking easy (or tbh anyone's life if it seems easier than mine I don't want to know) and it did contain some of that. I did enjoy reading it and agreed with all of it.
posted by bleep at 3:23 PM on July 7, 2019 [13 favorites]

I wonder if snail guy has read this. Snail guy, incidentally, appears to be the perfect human.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:28 PM on July 7, 2019 [14 favorites]

She learned how to cut onions, which, frankly, was kind of too bad for her, because once you learn to do that, you could feasibly show up in heaven and God would be like, “Tell me what you did on this earth,” and you’d be like, “I cut fucking onions.”

This is like a zen story, but the zen story has a happy ending.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 PM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

I have two local friends who come over for dinner once a month or so. One brings fancy wine, the other brings dessert. I host and cook. I started out doing super-fancy food (butternut squash risotto with sage and saffron was an early side dish) but I gradually switched over to less complicated more home-cook-type dishes and my enjoyment at these evenings has gone way up. I do like eating fancy food, but my guests seem equally happy with fancy and non-fancy, so I would rather do the thing that results in less frustration and resentment on my part. (They were always super appreciative of my work; I just got into grumpy self-talk about it.)

I recently started eating pescatarian and am moving toward vegan, and I started worrying about how it would affect our dinners then realized that if my friends only liked me because I fed them meat, they would not be very good friends. So I figure it will be fine.
posted by lazuli at 3:55 PM on July 7, 2019 [41 favorites]

All that to say: I love good food, but I also appreciate her recognition that not everything has to be Master Chef, because that pressure combined with gendered labor systems gets infuriating real fast.
posted by lazuli at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2019 [19 favorites]

Here is the Nora Ephron salad dressing.

It’s 2-2-6 tsp, Mustard-Vinegar-Olive oil.

I like homemade pasta sauce so I use canned crushed or whole peeled tomatoes depending on the recipe for most things. Very occasionally I’ll use the imported Italian ones, but for regular meals regular tomatoes are just fine.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:06 PM on July 7, 2019 [12 favorites]

I was pretty sure this was a previously, and here it is in its original cafe.com incarnation. It was less kindly received the first time around.
posted by zamboni at 4:20 PM on July 7, 2019 [26 favorites]

Snail Guy is fascinating and a delightful interview (and really, if for no other reason, listen to this interview so you can hear his laugh. It will do your heart good.).

For each, you put the very core of yourself out there, in the very pointed attempt to try to give someone a one-of-a-kind sensual experience, and to differentiate yourself, to declare, “Please notice and appreciate my singular talent,” and when at your urging they sample and reject, well, it is not good.

You don't say. There are lots of whys to cooking, and I like eating good food...but yeah, laboring in hope that the effort will be understood as an act of love and vulnerability is a losing bet when people's focus is on gas-and-go.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:42 PM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

good find, zamboni, and WOW some of those comments are vicious :/
posted by capnsue at 4:42 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a side note, the current host for the article is an interesting one- commenting is crypto currency pay as you go, and articles are allegedly archived to the Ethereum blockchain.
posted by zamboni at 4:45 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

"And then one night I made a pasta sauce out of carrots. I’d made it before and it was good,"

Yes, cooking is stupid.
posted by clavdivs at 4:48 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's definitely easier to get caught in the trap of associating cooking with love than, say, doing laundry or dishes, mostly because there's only so clean you can get things. With cooking, you can keep trying to invest more of yourself into the thing by getting more elaborate, more involved, more expensive, like a kind of proof of devotion, or sometimes as a proof of sophistication. But if you don't enjoy the base activity, or if the people you're feeding aren't going to appreciate the results, you're going to resent the effort.

Also, if people don't appreciate your cooking, cook for yourself, not for them.
posted by pykrete jungle at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2019 [14 favorites]

Pasta sauce out of carrots: is this a thing? I love carrots, look at recipes a lot, and have been to restaurants but have never seen this. Again I LOVE carrots but just the idea of carrot pasta sauce made me kind of nauseated.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:10 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

As long as you wank off enough goldfish, you can make a pretty tasty carrot sauce for pasta, I believe.
posted by ambrosen at 5:19 PM on July 7, 2019 [25 favorites]

I've seen a lot of pasta sauce recipes that start out with roasted carrots. Adds some sweetness, as long as you don't add too much (goldfish-cum sounds like too much carrot).
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 5:20 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Again I LOVE carrots but just the idea of carrot pasta sauce made me kind of nauseated.

I add a lot of carrots to my Bolognese, but that's balancing the acidity and such of the tomatoes. Not sure about a sauce that's primarily carrots. I'm unconvinced but would try it...
posted by jzb at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Ha, I had to laugh when I realized Snail Guy was The Eric Kandel, author of a textbook that was my bible when I first started graduate school in neuroscience.
posted by peacheater at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

I too want to know the no cooking secrets. I’ve been wondering for a while if I can get by surviving on whole wheat bread, sliced cheese, and sliced pears/apples (occasionally supplemented with raw carrots and French onion dip), and the internet has yet to give me a satisfactory answer. I think I probably need to add something else to it as another staple but I haven’t been able to figure out what. But I suspect it’s totally possible to just not cook, if you find the right combination of nutrients in a form that can just be eaten as-is.
posted by brook horse at 5:30 PM on July 7, 2019 [13 favorites]

I was pretty sure this was a previously, and here it is in its original cafe.com incarnation. It was less kindly received the first time around.

Oh, wow, thank you for finding that, I had vague memories of the original and thought there were two different women who had written essays about their relationship with presentation cooking ending with galettes, a type of food I don't think I could visually identify and am virtually certain I have never eaten, and was driven to distraction wondering how many people are out there making galettes.
posted by Copronymus at 5:34 PM on July 7, 2019

brook horse: "I too want to know the no cooking secrets. "

Here it is: inherit wealth.
posted by signal at 5:36 PM on July 7, 2019 [32 favorites]

I add a lot of carrots to my Bolognese, but that's balancing the acidity and such of the tomatoes.

I add a couple as well but just carrots? Yuk.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:44 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve read this before and was pleased to read it again. There is something about cooking, and assembling a meal in particular, that prompts us to invest ourselves (and then prompts me to prompt my partner for praise, which he gamely provides) but there is something to be said for finding a way to care less about the whole enterprise.

But, I don’t know! Even simple things sometimes take so much washing and chopping it’s like, ugh, please validate me already.
posted by Zephyrial at 6:01 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

I was just discussing yesterday with a MeFite friend whether cooking is Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3 fun. For me, cooking doesn't really play a social role, except on social media I guess. I live alone and I cook for myself; I vastly prefer it to cooking for others. I guess cooking is similar to writing. Neither is a "whooo, this is exhilarating!" Type 1 experience or a "wow, remember that time I chopped an onion, things got real touch-and-go there for a minute but we pulled it out" Type 2 experience. But I do cook because I want to, and for the visceral satisfaction when you dice an onion up just right. Not wanting to, for me, looks basically like the author and Anna's meals of pasta and maybe (but let's be honest, not usually) a green vegetable.

I get frustrated when I read Serious Eats or other cooking blogs or books which I legitimately enjoy and find useful and then they have a bit like "you could buy this but let's be honest, it's totally worth it and just all around better when you make this really complicated thing from scratch". No. Not really. You make it from scratch because you want to. Cooking is a choice. That said, because of restrictive gender roles it is often a choice between marriage and divorce, or between family and being told you're a bad mother. But it doesn't have a moral character, not really, and the sooner we amateur cooks stop feeling like we're better, or healthier, or wiser, or even enjoying more delicious meals than anyone else the better.
posted by capricorn at 6:09 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wow, the difference in the tone of comments in 2014 compared to now makes me wonder if we actually think that differently now, or if it's finally safe to say so.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:16 PM on July 7, 2019 [26 favorites]

I really wish my family would adopt not cooking for holidays. It's such a production with making eighty thousand dishes and timing everything just right and washing all the things, but also doing that exactly right because the well water blah blah blah. And it's tasty, but not that many hours of work tasty. And there is so much passive aggressive "discussion" about how much work it is, even though we adult children do as much of it as we are permitted to. Can we please just get some Chinese takeout or even a ready to heat meal from the grocery store (you can order the whole turkey and sides deal from Whole Foods, for example), and then have like six extra hours for doing jigsaw puzzles and chatting?

That said, we do not make our own pies, because we all acknowledge we will never make any pie as good as an Achatz pie. (And even if we could, it would not be superior enough to justify the extra work!)

I consider myself an expert at not cooking. Here are a few of my favorite "recipes":
+ Slice some good bread, made by your favorite local bakery. Serve with any of: cheese, butter, olives, tomatoes, fresh fruit.
+ Slice an apple. Put it in a bowl with a giant scoop of peanut butter.
+ Caprese. Mozzarella, tomato, and basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. If feeling fancy, make an actual vinaigrette.
+ Fresh figs, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar, in a bowl.
+ Take a zucchini. Spiralize it if that brings you joy. If not, slice/chop it however you like. Toss with store-bought sauce of some kind. Feel free to add on things like olives, pre-marinated/cooked tofu, bell peppers, etc.
+ Cut up fresh veggies and cheese. Dip in ranch dip or whatever you like.

Anyway, I do enjoy cooking as a social activity to do *with* someone else occasionally, but I'm not so into cooking *for* anyone (including myself).
posted by ktkt at 6:19 PM on July 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

Wow is Sarah Miller a terrific writer.
posted by latkes at 6:35 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

As I've gotten older I loathe cooking for myself, but usually enjoy cooking for others. I can't cook with someone, though I enjoy company in the kitchen while I do it. My partner noted recently that I tend to overproduce, though. Something to the effect of if I was bringing food for thirty it would probably be enough for sixty...
posted by jzb at 6:37 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

As I've gotten older I loathe cooking for myself, but usually enjoy cooking for others.

I'm the exact opposite. I don't mind cooking for the two of us or just myself, but I find cooking for a group incredibly stressful and difficult. Cooking for larger groups is it's own skill, and I've never learned it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Adding carrots to pasta sauce is definitely a thing; I think it's traditionally used to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes, which in the pre-industrial-farming days could vary quite a lot, and you probably didn't want your sauce to do the same.

My grandparents' generation apparently put carrots into their pasta sauce, but then my parents' generation stopped (and just used white table sugar, or used canned tomato paste that's fairly sweet rather than starting from nothing but a pile of tomatoes).

It's one of those things that I find intriguing but it certainly blows up the scope of a recipe by quite a bit. Making pasta sauce is pretty straightforward, if you're "cheating" by using tomato paste and canned tomatoes; making it from a pile of raw vegetables is something you'd better be planning your day around if you want to serve it that night.

Personally, I am the person in my relationship who does "expectations management"; to wit, I help lower the expectations of our guests through my own hosting, so that when my SO hosts something, everyone is impressed. I do this by repeatedly inviting people over and then doing things like "Which Cheap Beer Tastes Worse", and "What Chain Pizza Does Everyone Prefer (as measured by which is consumed fastest)" and then my SO can do salmon on the grill and by comparison looks like Alton fucking Brown.

To each their own.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2019 [13 favorites]

Wow, the difference in the tone of comments in 2014 compared to now makes me wonder if we actually think that differently now, or if it's finally safe to say so.

I remember enjoying the article and then noping out of the thread because my mother didn't cook and I don't cook and I didn't need to hear about how not cooking is the worst thing in the world. Additionally, MetaFilter threads on cooking tend to bring out the cooks who want to tell you how much they love cooking, homemade sauce tastes so much better than a jar (etc), but I'm allergic to tomatoes, and even if I weren't, does it really taste better than a jar? Does it really taste hours better than a nice jar? Oddly enough, my mother now cooks--she joined a vitamin cult and became obsessed with having five colours on her plate.

My grandmother hated cooking so much that she refused to pass down any family recipes. My cousin and I did shake some out of her, but I can feel her ghost staring at me whenever I make one, wondering what the hell I'm doing in a kitchen. I don't hate cooking, but as a single person surrounded by food options, any dish more complicated than a baked potato or eggs starts to cost as much as buying it prepared, and I definitely don't have storage for bulk cooking, which is where I'm told the savings comes. I can imagine that I would hate cooking if, like my grandmother, I had been doing it from a very early age for a table of people who eat quickly and don't say thank you. As it is, perhaps one day I'll move to an apartment with a decent kitchen and start putting five colours on my plate.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:47 PM on July 7, 2019 [20 favorites]

My mother is an excellent cook. The first and only time I ever heard my mother say the word "fuck" was when I was 38 years old and talking to her about pies and saying I was using storebought crust because I was crap with pastry, and she said, "Nobody's got time to fuck around with pastry." This was so delightfully out of character I called all three of my siblings in the next ten minutes to leave them voicemails tell them mom had said "fuck" in reference to homemade pastry. And all three of them called me back in the next hour to demand, "Mom said what about pastry?"

Anyway the point of this story is I'm crap with pastry, and for some reason I make okay (not great, but okay) pies (with storebought crust), but every galette I've tried has FAILED MISERABLY, and galettes are supposed to be easier!

Anyway yeah I'm pretty done with cooking as daily drudgery and would like to eat pesto pasta from a local Italian takeout place every single day for the next year and that would suit me fine. Maybe on Sundays I'd have a burger.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 PM on July 7, 2019 [16 favorites]

I love cooking, but I hate having to do it. If I can ever find a cheap enough source of smoked trout, I’m never cooking again. I could live perfectly fine on salads, PB sandwiches, and cold trout.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:07 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I really do hate the self-imposedness of it all, despite watching my mom do so much self-imposed work that I didn't care about as a kid, and knowing no one else cares that much about the provenance of food either, and yet every day I was anxious to be judged by the subparness of my cooking. The boys I lived with liked it just fine, or told me when they didn't but ate it anyways, so I did fine enough to keep them fed, and they kind of helped clean and occasionally cooked and sometimes helped me meal plan when I badgered, so...

But I wanted to earn my place by putting in the time and love and hope to be appreciated, and yeah, a little part of me thought that when the love was gone in my relationship that it was like ... a domestic failure, a personal failing, tied up in the same stuff as the cooking anxiety, and I did start to be aggressively average/minimal effort, rejecting attention but still trying to attract it. Dumb shit.

But also part of me is delighted by cooking as a process and an experiment and a creative effort, and the thing she had with Christine where they put in all of that work for very little return but have a blast doing it and make something magical, that sounds fantastic. I think having collaboration is the key for me. I'm staying with my mom right now and she is still doing way too much work around food but I try to be very appreciative of it now and have input/help where she'll let me so she's got company in it. Everyone wants to be seen, I guess is what it is.
posted by gaybobbie at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

I like cooking--when I feel like cooking, to make something just the way I like it or try something new or fancy.

As a seven-days-of-the-week chore, it blows. I recently moved to a place with what by NYC standards is a decent kitchen (so something shocking for you suburbanites) and it has helped...a bit. But during the times in my life when I was living alone and working 60-plus hours a week, I moved very easily to an all-Seamless-and-cheese-and-crackers diet. I mean, I tried to eat Seamless no more than twice a day. Three times meant something bad was going down.
posted by praemunire at 7:14 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

In order to reduce the amount of time I spend cooking, and the number of times I buy lunch on work days, I have semi-perfected the long-lasting cabbage salad. Which is: make a salad, but with shredded cabbage. Make sure there's some protein in it (beans, probably; also nuts of some kind). Put it all into a big bowl that fits in the fridge. Dress it with homemade dressing. Eat all week, or until the avocado bits go all mushy and brown.

That said, I love baking and often do so just for myself, in the knowledge that I can take the leftovers to work and use them to bribe coworkers into telling me important information about their projects in advance of the day they need my review completed. Win-win.
posted by suelac at 7:19 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I like cooking just fine when everything else in my life is easy or when I'm doing it for fun, but I struggle to fit day-to-day cooking in with the rest of my life. And I definitely hear her on the whole performative thing, where you feel obligated to cook, and you feel judged on your cooking. I am so fucking sick of work potlucks, and I have made a ton of progress on letting myself half-ass it. I'm also struggling a little bit with meal trains for new parents, etc., because I really want to be a person who pulls her weight in those situations, but I also find cooking for other people to be really stressful.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:20 PM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

Does it really taste hours better than a nice jar?

Im probably one of those people but yes, it’s much better than a store bought jar. Once I started making my own I realized how sugary grocery store sauce is.
posted by sfkiddo at 7:21 PM on July 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

I like to cook, but just like any other pleasurable activity, it easily becomes a chore when you have to do it.

Once I started making my own I realized how sugary grocery store sauce is.

Yes, so much. There is so much sugar in processed foods and sauces are some of the worst. Apart from any diet concerns, it just tastes way too sweet to me. Homemade sauce is one of the things that I still do as a matter of routine. It is more work, but the ratio of effort to payoff works for me.

(It definitely doesn't take hours! Half an hour, maybe, including simmering time?)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:29 PM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I do enjoy the occasional fancy bit of cooking, but a lot of my cooking is about perfecting something tasty with minimal effort, preferably that will make enough for mutiple meals. Like, for some reason people try to make crock pot recipes fancy with searing or chopping the meat or whatever. The whole damn point is that you can dump the ingredients in and go away! In fact, my current favorite instapot recipe is my white bean chili adapted from the crockpot version, which involves ZERO preproduction or slicing or anything and is Damn Tasty and will freeze for future meals.

Also, someone introduced me recently to Trader Joe's simplest recipe: one box steamed lentils. One container crumbled feta. One container fresh bruschetta. Dump in tupperware and stir. Lunches for the better part of the week, and it tastes even better after a couple of days of marinating together.
posted by tavella at 8:06 PM on July 7, 2019 [10 favorites]

Damn, the thread in response to the earlier iteration of this article is one of the most judgmental and hostile ones I’ve ever seen on this site. Like everyone was hangry.
posted by sallybrown at 8:07 PM on July 7, 2019 [17 favorites]

I love good food so long as other people cook it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:20 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Does it really taste hours better than a nice jar?

Yes, but mostly because 1) I can make it (be it sauce or whatever else) exactly how I want it and 2) to me it's not hours of work so much hours of an activity I feel like doing, usually with a show or podcast on in the background, or while hanging out with friends. Hours long recipes I can usually make in bulk to freeze, so that also takes down time per serving cost.

But 2 is really the most important part of the equation. If I've run out of home made pierogi and I'm not in the mood to make a new batch Mrs. Ts will do just fine.

Cooking general isn't a bother to me. It's grocery shopping: planning out what to eat for the week and then obtaining the required ingredients that grinds me down. No cooking doesn't usually solve that problem for me.

And I have to make some more galettes because the last ones sucked.

Oh man. She and I obviously have different ideas of fun. But this I totally a get.
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:34 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I really do wonder why nobody has made the Bachelor Chow from Futurama as there a clear market for it. Maybe everybody realizes that it would be far too powerful and we'd put a bunch of food processing companies out of work.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:40 PM on July 7, 2019 [7 favorites]

It does and simple versions are drop dead easy, whether or not you want to consider using canned tomatoes cheating is up to you but whether you use Heinz or Pomi it’s still miles above anything jarred including Rao’s and other premium brands.

Start here: Marcella Hazan Classic Pasta Sauce

Then I’d suggest Pasta Fresca. These are easy and fast in keeping with the spirit of TFA.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:43 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hours long recipes I can usually make in bulk to freeze, so that also takes down time per serving cost.

This. This this this this this. I am a huge advocate of cooking in bulk, freezing, and food saving. Make double/triple batches of everything and you don’t need to worry about dinner on a day to day basis.
posted by sfkiddo at 8:48 PM on July 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would point out that the article makes a biting point about the economics of batch-cooking. If you enjoy it -- great! If you do not, it is ok to spend your time doing something else.
posted by lazuli at 9:01 PM on July 7, 2019 [9 favorites]

Also, you need to have a certain amount of space for batch cooking. I haven’t had a decent-sized freezer in years.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:25 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

I’ve been wondering for a while if I can get by surviving on...

brook horse, I am 52, so you're likely to make it that far, if not further, since your list of foodstuffs sounds better than mine.
posted by maxwelton at 10:22 PM on July 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh, darn it, I appear to have lost the first version of this comment.

As much as I enjoy cooking, I would probably sign up for some sort of subscription meal prep service if I could get anywhere near the same quantity, quality, and price that I get from cooking. Right now, it takes $40 and five hours to feed two people breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the weekend and dinners only during the week. That's under $2 and 15 minutes per person-meal. The next best option is carry-away, which would be at least $5, probably more like $10 and probably still 15 minutes, if you wouldn't ordinarily pass right by the restaurant.

(Also, I'd have to eat whatever I could buy out of an American restaurant, instead of cooking what I wanted, but let's imagine I were white.)

Would any food service people care to speculate why we don't see more subscription-based, super-cheap meal prep services, like Meals on Wheels but not for special disabled or elderly populations?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:27 PM on July 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was pretty sure this was a previously, and here it is in its original cafe.com incarnation. It was less kindly received the first time around.

Criticism the first time around was focused much more on the author's unexamined wealth and privilege, while this time it seems more focused on the consensus agreement that cooking is a chore and one often unduly inflicted on women. Both varieties of take seem pretty MetaFilterish.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:54 PM on July 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I guess I don't really get this, I think this is about a lived experience I've never had. For me cooking has always been about making simple meals with minimal effort, I cook often but for short periods of time. I occasionally will make a recipe which involves more effort for occasions, but usually won't bother. I couldn't afford to have pre-prepared meals/takeaway frequently (and those options are usually incredibly unhealthy), and find the cheaper options, while fine (and I use them often), are boring in too much frequency. I cooked for myself for years, and now cook for my family of four. When I have cooked for more, I've usually gone for something very simply like a roast, or just bought pizza.

I don't recognise in my life and experience the idea of cooking as a drag, as a mind numbing waste of my time, but I imagine if I had been raised in the style the author has I might feel differently. I am sure this strongly correlated with my gender.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:41 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really do wonder why nobody has made the Bachelor Chow


I make something I call Bachelor Chow, though: a package of red beans and rice cooked with ground beef and a packet of taco seasoning. Usually topped with cheddar cheese and eaten with a piece of Trader Joe's naan. Usually can stretch leftovers for three days after.
posted by jzb at 2:35 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

In my circle of friends, I am the only woman who cooks. In all the other families, the men cook, as did their dads before them (and my stepdad). Maybe this is why I read an article like this one as a sort of antropological report from the upper middle class in America. Everything about it is fascinatingly alien.
My dad's family and my siblings on that side have more conventional family structures, and there I can see some of the emotions described in the article, though since they aren't American it's still very different. But having grown up between these two completely different cultures, I have observed that there is a difference between a social group where the men cook every day and one where the women cook every day. I wish it wasn't like that, and I don't like thinking about why it is. But where the men cook, cooking is prestige-filled, fun, and often intellectual. Where the women cook, it's a chore, not admired and often sad and guilt-ridden. One of the reasons I started cooking was that I couldn't bear the food we got in the conservative/traditional side of the family, and already when I was very young, I was given the responsibility and the purse for even large family events. Once when I made a Christmas Day dinner, I was told it was stressfull for the family (men and women) to eat, because it was too good. They felt they weren't allowed to have fun when there was a real sauce on their plates. Obviously, you can't generalize from my experiences, and I don't. I had a maternal gran who cooked like a master chef and she loved it.
posted by mumimor at 2:47 AM on July 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have to say that this sauce was so good someone could have thrown a jar of it at me and screamed “I hate you” and I would have licked it off the broken shards of glass,

This is just great and made me laugh at five something AM. Thanks for sharing.
posted by eirias at 3:24 AM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've had pasta with carrot sauce and it was amazing.

About twenty five years ago or so I was dating a man from Italy who was living here temporarily. One night he asked me to pick up some heavy cream on the the way up to his apartment. He was making pasta with carrot sauce.

From what I recall, he just sauteed some sliced carrots and then added the cream and pureed it all together before adding in the mostly cooked pasta to let it finish cooking in the sauce. Just before serving he threw in some fresh basil.

There may have been some garlic (although from what I experienced from when I lived in Italy, Italians don't use garlic nearly as much as we assume they do) or onions or other ingredients in the mix, but I don't remember that detail at all, I just remember how simple and delicious it was.
posted by newpotato at 4:12 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really do wonder why nobody has made the Bachelor Chow from Futurama as there a clear market for it. Maybe everybody realizes that it would be far too powerful and we'd put a bunch of food processing companies out of work.

AskMes about Bachelor Chow seem to have dropped off since Soylent entered the market.
posted by zamboni at 4:52 AM on July 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

Metafilter: Both varieties of take seem pretty MetaFilterish.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:03 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

mumimor, what is the culture where men cook?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:12 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

"I was so stupid to make that sauce, I was so stupid to be cheated on, and these failures were related." And therefore all cooking is always stupid for everyone. That's the leap--the universalizing of the reactive mode--that put me off this essay. (I mean, there are other responses involving food and the failure of relationship.) Less ironic detachment and more mature reflection, please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:14 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of cooking just well enough, because that's basically my philosophy on it, and most of the people I know ask me to bring something they think I make better than anyone they know, and even though I tell them that the fruit dip they love is literally a tub of Cool Whip, a packet of instant pudding and a tub of sour cream mixed together, people like simple foods just as much as complicated foods, and after stirring something for exactly 1 minute and hurling it in the fridge, I can feel accomplished and like I'm contributing to the party.
posted by xingcat at 5:37 AM on July 8, 2019

I come from Southern Italian families (Calabria & Sicily) where women cooked daily. Some of my uncles on the Calabrian side cooked occasionally. The men had their specialties, like my uncle Cosmo's spezzatino of chicken with wild mushrooms that he foraged from undisclosed locations and homegrown fiery hot peppers. It was wonderful and addictive with fresh bread. It was the women who did the great majority of the cooking. My father made cheese omelets and coffee. That was it. My mother could cook with the best of them. Her meatballs were legendary. This was at a time when supermarkets were just beginning to appear in the USA. I never had an interest in cooking myself until I met a woman with whom I worked who was an amazing cook and baker. This friendship and being fortunate enough to travel inspired me to try cooking. I never looked back. I am thankful to have grown up amidst women who were expert cooks. They could make the most inexpensive cut of meat into a meal that you would not forget and I haven't. I do pity my roommate in college for whom I cooked. However, he is still alive so it couldn't have been that bad.
posted by DJZouke at 5:46 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh forgot. Freshly grated fresh carrots are a flavor bomb. Look at the ingredients on any good bottled hot sauce and it usually contains carrots.
posted by DJZouke at 5:49 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was pretty sure this was a previously, and here it is in its original cafe.com incarnation. It was less kindly received the first time around.

Criticism the first time around was focused much more on the author's unexamined wealth and privilege, while this time it seems more focused on the consensus agreement that cooking is a chore and one often unduly inflicted on women. Both varieties of take seem pretty MetaFilterish.

There've been some changes in awareness over the last X years (the emotional labor and gender aspects of cooking, for example), and also it looks like the article has undergone some editing. There's a note on the newer version that says the older one was unabridged, a postscript mentioning that cooking is not always optional, and apparently some other changes. For example a negative comment in the previous thread quotes an excerpt - "Last night my boyfriend brought home prosciutto, melon, bread, some Saint- André cheese and a mixture of olives and feta in a little oil and vinegar that they sell at our local supermarket and which, along with just enough salad to ward off disease, I would be perfectly happy to live on. I went to sleep rested, un-buoyed by success, and un-flattened by failure" - and points out the wealth required to buy those ingredients. In the newer version the text is: "Last night my boyfriend brought home bread and cheese and olives and I made a salad in about 45 seconds. I went to sleep rested and un-buoyed by success and un-flattened by failure." You could see why those two versions might strike a different note.
posted by trig at 5:59 AM on July 8, 2019 [20 favorites]

Sorry, the old version was abridged, newer one unabridged
posted by trig at 6:14 AM on July 8, 2019

Wow, the difference in the tone of comments in 2014 compared to now makes me wonder if we actually think that differently now, or if it's finally safe to say so.

idk, i still hate cooking and i still hate being told i'm defective for hating cooking
posted by poffin boffin at 6:26 AM on July 8, 2019 [16 favorites]

I don't like cooking and would be interested in this whole phenomenon where you can just not do it (and yet somehow still have healthy, appetizing food on a tight budget) because I didn't know that was a thing.
posted by orange swan at 6:31 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

We both work, so pasta sauce is a good dinner because of the limited preparation time, and we totally put carrots into it because it adds sweetness, is cheap, and adds another vegetable to the children's dinner. We use a slow cooker, so I can put it on before going to work, then I do spaghetti when I get home with the children because that's the pasta that takes least cooking time. The sauce does two nights too.
posted by alasdair at 6:33 AM on July 8, 2019

I am laboring to detect the humor in the phrase "goldfish cum."

Says the guy who woke up cranky this morning, because why should today be any different?
posted by Flexagon at 6:34 AM on July 8, 2019

Carrots are really cheap and sweet, so they are the go-to for processed food for adding sweetness without actually having to put sugar in the recipe. Apples serve the same function for fruit. So your fantastic SUPER HEALTHY SMOOTHIE will mainly be carrot juice plus a few bits, or apple juice plus about three strawberries.
posted by alasdair at 6:34 AM on July 8, 2019

carrots are insanely sweet, i did not truly believe this until i mostly cut sugar from my diet and then had a single innocent carrot in stew and it was like a big piece of weird gravy-covered candy.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:38 AM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

Very late in life here. Never cooked at all. Lived on sandwiches and later on microwave meals. Right now Trader Joe's Madras Lentils (in the foil pouch) + chopped up tomatoes and call it done. I like eating a lot of different kinds of food but never felt it was worth the time to cook them.
posted by aleph at 6:40 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

mumimor, what is the culture where men cook?

We were teenagers in Copenhagen during the -70's. I guess there was a lot of counterculture stuff, a lot of feminist women, but my parents weren't countercultural at all, my stepfather was doing most of the cooking because he enjoyed it, (he traveled for work, so sometimes we had to endure our mum's terrible food, mostly variations on breakfast food). It was like that in several of the other families.
In some families the mothers did cook most of the time, but so badly that their sons, my friends, grew up cooking a lot for the families from a young age, and again, their dads were good at cooking, so there were role models. My aunt is actually a very good cook, but for several years she either refused to cook because feminism, or served some sort of hippie-woo food, so my uncle and cousin learnt to cook very well.
As I mentioned above, my dad didn't cook, and found himself a wife who did (but hated it) after the divorce from my mother. And that is kind of strange, because his mother was an absolutely terrible cook, who depended on the men in her life for good food. So there must be a tradition that stretches back even before my parents' generation, among a small subset of Copenhageners. From the fifties onward, there were some very popular male home cooks in TV and radio, I suppose they made it acceptable for even conservative men to cook for their families. These cooks were definitely part of the circles our parents and grandparents moved in.
posted by mumimor at 6:40 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’ve had carrot based sauces at vegan high cuisine places like a Crossroads Kitchen, and they’ve been great. It’s also totally common in many traditional Italian dishes. Here’s a fish and pasta recipe from Garda.

Sous-vide is probably the lowest effort for highest return in terms of “real food” especially if you’re willing to restrict yourself to things that work well with that method and eat mostly raw, cold or purchased sides (or sides that mostly cook themselves like baked potatoes, ears of corn, a bag of spinach into the sauté pan).

I don’t do full on meal prep but I will buy the multipacks of cutlets (and sous vide can deal with cheaper cuts) and season, bag and freeze the extras. They can go directly from the freezer into the water bath. If you want to avoid pans and need to sear to finish, use a grill or a blowtorch.

I will also buy premarinated or preseasoned meats from the market. Just because I can do everything from scratch doesn’t mean I have to. In fact, living alone, often it’s more economical upfront and less wasteful in terms of excess and spoilage than buying all the produce and whatever staples I might be missing to do a particular preparation from square one.

I also like to freeze excess sauce in serving size bags and use the sous vide to bring it back to serving temp. One less pot.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:56 AM on July 8, 2019

I am currently in the middle of a big emotional struggle with my mother and this article has opened a window for me and let in sooooooo much light.

These two lines:
We cook to make ourselves indispensable and special.

People cook—particularly women, but not only women—because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but no one thinks about who made what they’re eating or how it got on the table.

They make so much clear about my mother. I've struggled with her for decades about this perfectionist bullshit where she pledges to cook some difficult and crazy thing for family or friends, and then I am expected to help. I've never been able to understand why she can't just let it slide. My grandmother used to throw pies to the hogs because they weren't pretty enough to serve. I've seen my mother, her daughter-in-law, do the same. She's tossed out jars of canned goods because they weren't 'pretty'. And dear lord the hours she spent on cookies and cupcakes for her ungrateful daughter to take to school where hoards of children would inhale them like locusts.

Hell, I've done it myself. But I'm moving towards an internal life that is less concerned with how much people will love me for the things I do and more towards just enjoying being loved and loving people.
posted by teleri025 at 7:01 AM on July 8, 2019 [18 favorites]

"I was so stupid to make that sauce, I was so stupid to be cheated on, and these failures were related."

I don't think she was universalizing this, just talking about her own emotional leaps.
posted by lazuli at 7:07 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you want to avoid pans

yes! i want that!

use ... a blowtorch

posted by poffin boffin at 7:17 AM on July 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

i mean as long as someone else is willing to accept responsibility for the outcome of this plan i am 100% in favour
posted by poffin boffin at 7:17 AM on July 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

It’s not as nuts as it sounds. Seemed strange the first few times I did it, now I’m pretty blasé about it. Dry the meat with paper towels first so it sears instead of steams.

This one.

Like this.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:21 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, from the same authors as Pasta Fresca above, Cucina Fresca is a book of simple recipes, many all done at room temperature.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:29 AM on July 8, 2019

I enjoy cooking as a hobby. But I have a stressful job and lots of other hobbies I care about more and limited time and also I live in NYC where you can have any food on Earth delivered to your house, so these days I do very little cooking.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:33 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't like cooking and would be interested in this whole phenomenon where you can just not do it (and yet somehow still have healthy, appetizing food on a tight budget) because I didn't know that was a thing.

This reminds me of the good AskMe a bit ago about how you could build a pizza that met all your nutritional needs. As much as I enjoy throwing a dinner party and cooking, when I’m home alone I usually do more “assembling” than cooking. The best bang for my buck nutritionally I think is a couple handfuls of salad greens with oil and vinegar and any veggies I have sitting around like red onion, some bread on the chewy and dark side with a tub of hummus or some Greek yogurt, and maybe limit the cooking to a couple eggs scrambled or fried. Or I roast a ton of veggies in sheet pans on Sunday night and then grab some of those throughout the week. Then dip into the olives and cheese that live in the fridge and the dark-chocolate almonds that live in the pantry.
posted by sallybrown at 7:34 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh but I don’t like cooking meat or fish, which is a whole other ballgame of cooking. Sometimes I’ll buy a rotisserie chicken on the weekend and slice pieces off all week as I do my dinner “assembling.” One of the benefits of being single is not having to worry about inflicting this dinner pattern on some steak-lover.
posted by sallybrown at 7:36 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am a steak lover! But also graze a lot as a single person and it was awesome when I realized that was allowed and didn’t have to make meals just because.

Steak is great but so is chopping (or ripping) up some prosciutto and eating it over arugula with a a little vinaigrette (or just lemon and mustard and oil). Maybe out of the clamshell the arugula came in. In my sweatpants. Standing in front of the silverware drawer.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:42 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

yeah my diet is mostly defined by random grazing upon the unrelated items i buy when shopping while hungry (worst), plus a few reheatable prepared meal type things. and a lot of fruit. more fruit than you can possibly imagine.

my diet got more interesting earlier this year when i played the blood & wine dlc of the witcher bc there are only so many hours one can take of being assaulted by duck confit at every turn without needing to eat some yourself. but like. i'm still not cooking that. that's someone else's job.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:45 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

My breakfast this morning consisted of cheese and crackers along with a cup of coffee made by my son. I know how to cook and I know about nutrition. The challenge to me is eating well with no or minimal cooking. I'm tired of this obsession with food, the production of food, the cooking of food, the serving of food. Will we next become obsessed with the shape, size, and smell of our shit? My beloved grandson, who just graduated from high school, is going to culinary school. I wish I could find the right caring words to discourage him from that.
posted by mareli at 8:00 AM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

what is the culture where men cook?

Well - my dad is an old hippy and very counter-culture - he did all the cooking (well, us kids helped) - he did a stint as a cook on a private yacht for awhile and would make many different things. (When I was very young, I loved his "kitchen catch a torry"....) He was also a single-parent. When we moved from living with my mom (who was not a good cook), to living with him it was a big change - but we all participated in helping make dinner, especially the required salad, which was the kids responsibility entirely, including homemade dressing.

For many many years, I hated to cook - I didn't like the stress of trying to get all the dishes to come out at the right time. And having to do things a certain way, because my former partner was a stickler for 'perfection' - I would help with chopping and preparation - and I would "man the grill" and make various BBQ creations.

So much so, that when I met my current partner, I joked: "I don't do 'inside food'".

But something changed in the last 5-years - admittedly, I still keep things simple - I like 1-dish meals, my slow cooker and my pressure cooker, but everyone appreciates my cooking (well, they ask for it, and people keep coming back - or asking me specifically to bring things to the potlucks). Sure - I have never tried baking - because it requires accurate measuring and actually following a recipe, rather than throwing things together with wild abandon (and vast amounts of garlic, spices and other seasonings). The only hard part of this change, was changing again in the last year to adjust my recipes when my family decided to stop eating all red meats entirely.
posted by jkaczor at 8:04 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a couple or three different things are getting mushed together, though. There's the sort of performative cooking that the author was mostly complaining about, or the poster whose mother would obsess over perfectly decorated cupcakes. And then there's the cooking when you have a family, and kids that you have to feed something reasonably nutritious and edible each day, and for most people on a budget that does not cover being able to order delivery every day. For the first, you can indeed decide you will never cook again, for the second it's more a matter of finding low stress ways to do it (and dividing the labor out.) And there's kind of a third, where you are just feeding yourself but that can be tedious too, even though you have perfect freedom compared to when you are responsible for other people -- it's true you can feed kids pancakes for dinner every day for a week and they'll live, but as a rule you'd like to teach them how to eat a balanced diet and how to like a lot of different foods, so that when they eat pancakes for dinner as an adult, it's a choice not the only thing they know.
posted by tavella at 8:14 AM on July 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

Parts of this resonated very strong for me, but this:

no one thinks about who made what they’re eating or how it got on the table. They’re just hungry, and they eat, and they sometimes say thank you, and then they forget about it.

Seems very White Upper-Middle Class American. Because, like, I was raised in a Chinese American family where, when a meal came to the table, we talked about it at length while eating. Was it home cooked? If so, who made it? Who did the grocery shopping? Which grocery store? Did this taste better or different than the last time we had this dish? What was done differently? Does this have any ingredients that were brought over from our last trip to Hong Kong? If this was store bought, was it good value? How did the portion size compare? Did we like this more or less than what Mom had made for dinner the night before? Thank you for cooking for us, Mom. What you made was delicious, especially the ___________________________.

Part of it is Chinese culture, which is deeply food-obsessed. But it's also the result of both of my parents growing up food insecure in post-WWII Hong Kong, raised by parents trying to stretch to stretch a single salary to feed multiple children, plus grandparents, plus other dependents. My parents emigrated, in part, to make sure their kids would eat three times a day, meat at every meal, seasonal fruit afterwards.

So, no, we did not forget.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2019 [28 favorites]

I entered my relationship with my now-wife at a rather young age and as a terrible cook, able to boil water and make toast and do pretty much nothing else. (I've improved a little bit since then.) She wooed me with homemade pasta sauce and it just made her seem like the most exotic cook imaginable when she put carrots and celery in her sauce. We still make that sauce from time to time and it is still tasty after all these years.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm totally here for the non-goldfish-cum style of pasta sauce with carrots.
posted by cheapskatebay at 8:25 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

My mom's family didn't do 'performative cooking', though I really can't remember Grandma doing any cooking at all (she always made us eat pimento salad loaf balogna sandwiches with mayo - nasty!) when we visited. Thanksgiving was Church's Chicken or Papa Johns. I'm just saying it's wrong to say that nobody remembers what you cooked, even if they didn't shower you with gratitude.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

My grandmother decided to stop cooking the day her last child left home and absolutely refused to ever do so for the next forty years. The grandparents' house had bread, butter, cola, often fixings for a liverwurst sandwich. . . and that's it. The fridge was bare. (There were enough very salty peanuts and candy on the counters to snack on in the middle of the night, though.) Everything else was take-out, decanted onto ceramic plates that the dishwasher cleaned. She made many choices in life that I'd never choose for myself. . . but, for a woman who grew up in a rural town in the US in the '30s, that was a hell of a bold move that I have to celebrate.

As someone who thinks of cooking as an excuse to listen to podcasts and not feel too bad about all the actual work I should be doing instead, 'cause I'm doing something "useful," it fills a different role in my life. (And, as a kid who grew up with instant packaged foods and drive-throughs, it still feels slightly rebellious.) Obligated cooking, though, is a very different thing.
posted by eotvos at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2019 [10 favorites]

“There are chocolate chips in the freezer.”

Now THAT's cooking!
posted by jaruwaan at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've noticed that carrots vary widely in their sweetness levels and flavour, which might explain the varying sauce outcomes. I haven't eaten a carrot for years, because I've never been able to find a supermarket carrot as good as the ones we grew in the garden when I was kid.
posted by clawsoon at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Carrot pasta sauce is a thing. I didn't believe it either...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2019

I've noticed that carrots vary widely in their sweetness levels and flavour, which might explain the varying sauce outcomes.

This is definitely true. The ones at most grocery stores here are about the size of a US quarter or less and are sometimes watery, sometimes flavorful, depending on the producer and time of year. And there are the baby carrots cut down from bigger ones, which are almost universally watery. And there are the various colored ones that you can get at farmer's markets, usually with the tops on.

And then you have the carrots that the Cantonese Chinese grocery around here stock, and they are GODDAMN MONSTERS. Like, I have a picture of my adult sister holding a particularly large one next to her face for scale, and the thing stretches, no joke, down to her collarbones. It dwarfs her forearms. Even the ""normal"" ones are over a foot long, a minimum of two inches in diameter, hard as rocks in the display case, and frequently have cracks. They're never sold in a bag, because a single one is easily a pound and a half. Cut into a salad uncooked, they're inedible wood. If you tried to make a sauce out of them without cooking, I imagine they'd wear out your grater, and also produce something that tastes a lot like goldfish cum.

But toss them with a little oil in a hot wok, which is one of the main ways that Cantonese Chinese folks eat carrots, and they are wonderful. In a clear soup, which is the other main way that Cantonese Chinese folks eat carrots, they give a deep, vegetable sweetness. Mirepoix involving them smells better and tastes better. Cut into small chunks and roasted with butter, they're sweet as candy.

tl;dr: eat Godzilla carrots, but not if you're going to put them raw into a sauce I guess?
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

100% agreed on carrots, though if you can find locally grown ones at a farmer's market or wherever they tend to be more consistently sweet.
posted by peppermind at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2019

Oh, bust out your question marks!

I used to try and hide vegetables in spaghetti sauce, including ground carrots. My kids weren't fooled by this ploy. They still pulled every bit they could find and put it aside. Then one decided she didn't like cooked tomatoes, and the other decided she wouldn't eat raw tomatoes. They survived, and both revere Martha Stewart, and that NY Times food editor, Melissa Clark. They both cook, in spite of me.
posted by Oyéah at 11:09 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've had carrot soup with noodles or other pasta in it and it was good. Making the soup a sauce would just be a matter of adding less chicken broth.
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2019

My mother definitely has a compulsion to cook for people that is tied to her image of herself. She's always been a good cook but her need to cook has basically ended. Whenever people come over she will cause pain to herself (she's in her 80's and will get joint pain or otherwise tired out) by cooking for them unless me or my wife are around to talk her out of it. I had to stop her from cooking this morning when one of my cousins said he would be stopping by to say hi as he was in town. I said we had plenty of fruit to serve and that and some tea would be more than enough because he wasn't coming for lunch but just to say hi.

I'm a pretty relaxed cook in that as long as I like what I've made I don't care what anyone else thinks and I'm pretty easy to please. The one bit of cooking that does give me stress is roasting the turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas because I don't eat meat and never have any idea how it tastes or is otherwise cooked beyond what my meat thermometer and eyes might tell me. People say the turkey is good but I have no idea if it is actually good, or how good it is, or if they're just happy that someone else has cooked a turkey for them.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:26 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

try and hide vegetables in spaghetti sauce, including ground carrots

Heh, "meatloaf" for the kids (and us), which contained about 10% actual meat... They loved it, I loved it - it was great. (Maybe not so wonderful trying to fry up slices the day after for sandwiches, but...)

the sort of performative cooking that the author was mostly complaining about

Yes, that's what turned me off cooking for over 17-years - everything had to both be visually perfect, and very explicit preparation instructions followed. Meat braised "just so", spices measured with complete exactitude. Now - I have to admit, that person could make some very amazing dishes - I had never had beef wellington until it was prepared at home - took only a single failed attempt, then every time thereafter was sheer perfection. Her paella was "to die for".

But the fussiness, running around purchasing the "exact" ingredients (sometimes multiple days of separate shopping trips), and preparation time was exhausting - for everyone. On uncountable occasions, by the time the meal was ready, everyone was stressed out, arguments had occurred and occasionally people (myself included) just couldn't or wouldn't eat. It was like Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter EVERY single weekend.

Since that relationship ended, I definitely look back with regret at not appreciating the efforts better - a meal prepared by someone else is a wondrous thing, no matter how perfect or work-a-day it is. (And you always compliment the cook, no matter what! Even if pastries and deserts are not your favorite)

But... lately, in my new life - I whip things up in an hour or so, with ingredients on hand and my efforts are well received. About the only time I made something inedible was a slow-cooker chili where I added way too much spice. And.. don't criticize other peoples food choices/priorities - definitely never say "eww, how can you eat that..."
posted by jkaczor at 12:55 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Will we next become obsessed with the shape, size, and smell of our shit?

Someone missed February...
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:09 PM on July 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

And I definitely hear her on the whole performative thing, where you feel obligated to cook, and you feel judged on your cooking.

Hear, hear. I feel so judged and shamed if I fuck up that I don't want to do it. Cooking is about screaming and judging as far as I'm concerned.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:50 PM on July 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

Amen to all of this. I'm pretty good at cooking, I used to get into the performative aspect of it and all, and was duly recognized. At some point I came to the same conclusion as the author of this article, that it was kind of bullshit and I didn't feel like it anymore. Now I only do it either as a last resort, or to satisfy a specific craving. I'm glad to have the skill, but also glad to not use it too much.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:56 PM on July 8, 2019

I recommend highly Cooking is Terrible, a small and amusing ebook by Mischa Fletcher that agrees and gives advices and recipes to avoid cooking and starvation/malnutrition. I bought it on a whim and use quite a few of the ideas as my primary meals now because I cook only when I damn well feel like it.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:39 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like to cook, and lately I've been recognising that cooking, particularly complicated cooking, is a craft. It's fun in the way mastering any kind of creative process is. But it's never fun when it's a chore, and it's totally fine that not everybody is interested in learning the craft. Nobody judges you for buying a table from IKEA instead of building one yourself from a tree you chopped down in the woods.

A book that changed my perspective of cooking was "Outlaw Cook", which I first heard about on mefi. Cooking, fundamentally, is thinking about how different flavors go together (both in unison and in sequence) and making that happen. What people upthread are calling "assembling" really is just cooking. Even when you're having a meal at a fast food restaurant, if you think about when you should eat the burger, when you should stop and have some fries, how much ketchup you should put on the fries, and so on, it's the same spirit.

Once I realised that I became a lot more freeform in how I "cook". Just buying some bread, cheese and fruit from the supermarket and paying attention to how they work together is cooking. Shows like MasterChef make cooking seem to be this huge endeavor, but rarely do you need to go to that level. Cooking can be simple.
posted by destrius at 9:55 PM on July 8, 2019 [9 favorites]

Since I live to eat and not the other way around, I have to add that carrots with the top greens still attached have more flava. Regarding presentation, I was never big on molecular gastronomy and am glad it sort of went away. This thread is quite good and gives insight into multi-cultural thoughts and feelings about cooking food. This is reassuring in a world such as it is. After humanoids discovered fire and its effects upon the raw diet (don't get me started), then the cave conversations began. IMHO, if we can't talk about food, music, books, dogs, cats, gardening or existence then we have really nothing to talk about.
posted by DJZouke at 5:46 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking about the carrots and I think that if I were in the very bad situation where I had to make a pasta sauce of them, I'd do what I always do with sweet vegs: make them like shellfish: olive oil, garlic and chili, with plenty of parsley to garnish, parmesan cheese optional. Actually, I might try it, just to see how it works. Just a tip. (You may ask, why not just go without the carrots, but you know: waste not)
posted by mumimor at 6:36 AM on July 9, 2019

Also this thread has given me an earworm of Tim Minchin singing "brain cum" on Paul Provenza's Green Room. It's not funny anymore. (Sad.)
posted by jaruwaan at 6:43 AM on July 9, 2019

This thread has really made me think about how I think about food, and about how I think about people who don't think about food the same way I do. I love food and eating, and sometimes cooking (more often assembling). I always thought about people who are not "into" food as if they were missing some critical part of a soul, like there's this thing (eating) that you have to do every day to survive, how could you not want to take pleasure in it and make it as enjoyable as possible.

Then I thought about another daily necessity of life - clothing. My wardrobe consists of two pairs of jeans, a bunch of t-shirts with band names or funny cartoons, two weeks' worth of socks and underwear, a pair of sneakers, and a couple of "nice" outfits that get hauled out once a year or so if I have to go to a wedding or a funeral.

I know, just from observation of the culture around me, that there are plenty of people who love clothes and enjoy dressing in particular ways and shopping for outfits and making interesting combinations of things to wear. Chances are that they look at me as if I were missing some critical part of a soul, like there's this thing (wearing clothes) that you have to do every day to survive, how could you not want to take pleasure in it and make it as enjoyable as possible.

Of course, for those of us who are not hermits, choices about food and clothing and everything else are all bound up with class and appearances and performance and none of it is simple. But this thread has at least given me some empathy for people who don't make those choices the same way I do.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2019 [23 favorites]

I prefer cooking for groups, but I'm also very all or nothing. I just made 5 fillings for a DIY taco bar with two salads and three appetizers for my birthday party, but did that in like 9 hours and had to rest for a week afterwards. Right now I'm eating take-out because I am reluctant to cook for myself. I should find some balance...

@joyceanmachine's experience echoes mine as a Chinese-American. My mom doesn't enjoy cooking much, but is still very food obsessed. My brother and I ended up being the cooks in our family.
posted by yueliang at 8:42 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Daily Alice, thanks for your comment. I'm an okay cook, but I am utterly exhausted by the implication (which is surprisingly common) that the healthy but utilitarian way that I cook (which I learned from my mother) was somehow broken because I didn't take a deep joy in it. There's cooking to survive and feed your family, and then there's cooking as a hobby, and more often than not people conflate the two and then act as if you are somehow defective if you do the former but not the latter. So I appreciate a I-enjoy-cooking-as-a-hobby person realizing that someone isn't broken because they do things differently.
posted by Tehhund at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

Nota Bene
There's a LOT more to molecular gastronomy than looks, I understand this. I only used it as an example of presentation and looks.
posted by DJZouke at 4:56 AM on July 15, 2019

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