In the spirit of living in the present and doing today what shouldn’t wait until tomorrow, one of the areas we sometimes forget to pay attention to is food, both eating but especially cooking. When we’re new to living on our own, or get busy with everything else we have to deal with, it’s easy to get lazy and go with takeout or frozen dinners, or to make the same, simple, familiar meals over and over again. Learning how to cook and making the time for it can seem overwhelming, but think of it as a way to carve out some time to enjoy today, while doing something you must do regardless.
People who love to cook will tell you that it’s an art. They’ll tell you how much they love to improvise and throw together and create tastiness out of leftovers and chaos. I suppose that might be so, but I wouldn’t know. I’m a baker, not a cook. I follow recipes, precise step by precise step. Turns out that you can cook some pretty good non-pastry meals that way too. There’s a reason so many cookbooks and recipe sites and cooking shows exist, and why you can take virtual and in-person classes to learn your way around a kitchen if you don’t have a friend who can show you. Most all of us have to start somewhere and it’s perfectly okay for that to be the very beginning, when you need exact instructions and photos and demos about exactly what to do and how to do it. With those in hand, some patience, and some faith, you will probably find the mysterious art of cookery easier than you first thought.
Even if you don’t immediately, you will get there. Cooking is like any other skill, where doing it more will make you more familiar with it and better at it. It may be frustrating in the beginning, and you may have to resort to pizza for dinner after all, when you really screw something up, but over time, it will become less difficult and less time-consuming. You’ll even get comfortable enough to start making substitutions and coming up with variations and combinations. One night, you’ll be out of the right cheese or the right vegetable, or chicken thighs will be on sale instead of pork chops, and you’ll adapt because you’ve done it the recipe way a dozen times before and know that one change at a time won’t be fatal. Some other time, you’ll decide that you really want a particular dish and, not finding a recipe that sounds good, will cobble one together from a half-dozen blogs. And it will be so very satisfying, both having mastered this new skill and having a delicious meal right there to show for it.
Cooking can still be a chore, it’s true, but it’s still worth the time you invest into it because it’s an investment into you. Even if you don’t cook the healthiest of recipes, your overall nutrition profile will still likely be better than overly-processed ready-made meals or restaurant food, and you can start making minor adjustments towards the changes you’d like to see in your diet. If you acquire food sensitivities, you might find that cooking for yourself will become a necessity so that you can have something even approaching favorite and familiar dishes. Food blogs are even wordier than I am, but they certainly hold every diet variation of every dish you might be able to think of, and the more time you spend in front of your stove, the more you’ll be able to figure out if that recipe will actually be good before try it out. It’s also usually cheaper to cook from scratch or close to scratch, even if you use premium ingredients. That thirty-dollar ribeye at the butcher might seem extravagant, but less so when you realize it would cost you two or three times that at the local fancy steakhouse. As you get handier in the kitchen, you’ll not only be less afraid of ruining such a nice piece of meat but start to realize that perhaps you can make it as good as or better than a restaurant cook. All that, and you’ll start to be able to save time over waiting for delivery or running out for takeout or a restaurant meal, especially if you make use of meal prepping strategies or regular old leftovers.
One last reason to learn how to cook for yourself: you can make every day a little more catered especially to you, and make special occasions even more spectacular. If you make your own meals, you’ll be able to add and delete details that will help you enjoy your meal more, like making a curry as spicy or not as you please or always having a side of your favorite vegetable. On a rough day, you can ensure that you will have the exact comfort food you want, exactly as you like. If you decide to splurge and go out for a big celebration, you’ll have the knowledge to choose more unique or interesting options and more fully appreciate the artistry in front of you. Plus if you really fall in love with that experimental appetizer, you have the option and fun of trying to recreate it at home.
It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Now go make yourself something delightfully tasty this weekend.