My aspirational cook book problem

There many ways that Tracy and I are alike. We’re friends, co-bloggers, and longtime colleagues with a slew of shared commitments but we are also very different people. Mostly we both accept that “you do you” idea and let the other go her different ways. I road bike. She runs. That’s just one example but there are many. Also, we don’t generally pine after what the other one has.

But there is one thing that Tracy has that I envy. That’s her love of cooking and her cooking skills. I listen to her stories of cooking as a relaxation thing and I’m jealous.

Me, I appreciate good cooking. I love food. But I have very little patience for making it. Partly that’s a matter of personal history. You try feeding three kids with different tastes for many years and food planning and preparation loses lots of its charm. You try to make something fun, and yummy, and new but really they’d rather have tomato soup and grilled cheese or scrambled eggs or veggie burgers and fries.

For years I’ve had the luxury of complaining about buying groceries. Three teenagers and their friends adds up to a lot of food. There’s all the putting in the cart, bagging it, getting groceries to the car, unloading the car, putting the food away, and then blink, it’s gone. I joke that I may as well ring a bell in the driveway and they could all run out and eat and we could just cut out the putting away part.

Things are a bit better now. Some of the kids are away. Their tastes have broadened and they cook. That’s lovely. Last year when I was teaching late and my daughter would text with me with dinner options I felt I’d truly arrived.

But I still haven’t found a love of cooking in me. I mean, yes, I prepare food. I make salads. I boil pasta. I scramble eggs. But I don’t cook in any serious way. When you’re an academic and you want to know something about a thing, what you do is acquire books about it. That’s been my unsuccessful approach to cooking.

I look at cookbooks and I dream of a better, healthier, more ethical life. I aspire to veganism and if only I cooked, I think, I could do that. (I do pretty well as it is 50-75% of the time and that’s not so bad.) So I buy cookbooks. I read cookbooks. I imagine eating the meals therein. But so far, it’s mostly aspirational. I’ve probably made one recipe out of each book.

This isn’t even the entire shelf of aspirational cookbooks. There are more.

I think cooking from cookbooks is just too big a step for me. Last semester my son tried the GoodFood program where they deliver the ingredients for meals pretty much prepared and the recipes in a giant box. It’s kind of “meet you halfway” home cooking. When he’d had a few weeks I got some free samples and Sarah and I made them. The vegan/vegetarian options were pretty good. But it felt like a luxury, the sort of thing I might spring for on a particularly busy work week when the alternative would be take out.

I’ve also been spending a lot more time in Toronto where the take away choices are pretty amazing.

I might try Tracy’s start small thing and pick one night a week to choose a recipe and make it.

Oh, and no more cook book buying!

How about you? Do you struggle with cooking at home? Love it? Hate it? Why?

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