Cooking, like calculus, doesn’t come easy
My mum would argue she failed as a mother. Whatever the case – and I don’t think it’s that, hello Mum! – I am not equipped to use fire and meat and create food. In short, I am a cosseted product of 21st century living, someone more at home perusing a gastropub menu than cooking from, gasp, scratch. In fact, I seem to have a kind of cooking dyslexia, part of an overall disability when it comes to the practical side of life. Ikea embodies all my weak points.
But back to the point. I’ve got to be worse than most- colleagues and friends are forever talking about throwing together casseroles, tarts, roasts and roulades – “you just throw a bit of this and that and do this and that to it” – as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. To me it sounds like calculus – what brain chip was I born without, pray tell?
Now, I love food- I love eating it. I quite like making it, too. And I’ve tried over the years to develop a cookery “sense”, I’ve hoped that at some point I’d know just what sauce goes with chicken and what temperature to cook lamb, and the equipment you need to do it all, having followed so many recipes. But it doesn’t happen- if I cook at home, it’s a case of salads, that vary from the weird to the excellent, and eggs. You won’t catch me just throwing together a casserole, oh no. I still look on the oven with suspicion.
But now I’m stuck. I’m meant to cook for people on Friday night, that I invited, and I find myself – in despair- my usually fertile imagination completely failing me, trying to get through Delia Smith’s ingredients list for Moussaka, having asked everyone at work what’s easy and good to cook for people. I think I can just about do it, although the definition of “baking sheet” eludes me- is that wax paper, like a sheet, or a shallow oven tray? Then my eye caught a nice looking goat’s cheese tart, and I had a moment of “I can do that”, before noticing ole Delia was going to make me do the pastry from scratch. Which I don’t think I have the motivation or skills to do. That’s right folks, I’m 27 and I’ve never made my own pastry.
Thirty or fifty years ago, women would not be- or be allowed to be- as gauche and unintuitive in the kitchen as me. If they loved food, it would likely be their own. I do not regret how times have changed- but I’d also like to feel that I knew what I was doing, a bit, in that chemistry set known as the kitchen. And I’d like to be able to say I love what comes out of the moussaka experiment on Friday, but the jury’s out. I’ll have to figure out what a baking tray is first.