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June 16, 2010

A Fairytale Proposition

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:49 am

I have a major confession to make:

I don’t really like to cook.

I don’t mind cooking. I’ll do it if I need something to eat and there are no cold tortillas left in the fridge. I have a repertoire of about four things I can whip up without having to think about them. These four things are:

1) Scrambled eggs with stuff (vegetables, potatoes, cheese…)
2) Veggie stir-fry
3) Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese
4) …okay, I lied. There are three things.

What’s important to know about these dishes: They’re okay. They’re not great. (Except the Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It’s basically impossible to screw up Mac ‘n’ Cheese and if you’re having an “I just need to go home and eat a bowl of fuckin’ Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese” day, that radioactive-orange goo is always great.) These are not the recipes I’m BEST at; they’re just the only ones that don’t cause me stress or strife. (And I can load all three of them with lots of broccoli. Nom.)

Also: I like to bake. A lot. I’m not a great baker either, but I’m a pretty good baker and baking gives me stress relief. When I lived in Ireland, I used to bake mountains of cookies and ridiculous over-the-top layer cakes and piles of vegan chocolate cupcakes every term before exams and then feed them to my flatmates while they were cramming. I attribute this to the fact that while my mom was never much of a cook – we ate a lot of frozen fishsticks, canned peaches and TV dinners as kids – she liked baking with my brother and I at the holidays. Some of the happiest, least insane memories I have of my mother from childhood involve cutting out sugar cookies in the shape of trees and candy canes. A couple of times, we made our own chocolates, and when my great-grandmother died, we inherited the yellowed, type-written recipes for her ‘famous’ mincemeat pies. I loved making those tiny pies.

But, as long as it wasn’t my only source of sustenance, I could make nothing but utterly basic stir-fries and chocolate chip cookies with too much vanilla for the rest of my life and I’d be perfectly happy…

Except I fear this makes me terribly uncool. Because EVERYBODY likes to cook. Everybody thinks it’s fun and fascinating. Everybody wishes they were better at it. Everybody’s experimenting with recipes. Everybody’s trying to improve. Everybody’s watching Alton Brown. Everybody’s trading recipes online. Cooking is important and exciting and creative and politically symbolic and GREAT for impressing girls!

And yet, I’m still over here thinking: Man. Spices? Seriously? I don’t even know. Spices are a foreign language to me. Not a foreign language like Spanish; a foreign language like Sanskrit or Mandarin Chinese. “Don’t worry about knowing rules or anything, just use the ones you think will taste good!” I think will…wha-, how do I kno-…? Dude, can you just ask me questions about how to fix your car or something? I won’t be able to answer those either, but at least I will understand what I’m not understanding.

Don’t get me wrong. I like spices. I like to eat them. I like to eat, period. I LOVE to eat. I especially love to eat food made by people I love. I love to watch people I love make food and get excited waiting for it to come out of the oven and sit down and appreciate it with them. I even enjoy helping people make food, as long as they can give me very specific directions about exactly what to do with that knife and that onion. I wish I could create deliciousness for them in return, and I honestly feel bad that I can’t and sometimes I try, but I just…trail off.

I think people who cook are amazing. Perhaps even moreso because I don’t get it myself. It’s like they know magic. My dad and my step-mom and my brother and my boyfriend and my best friend are all fabulous cooks, who really care about cooking, and I feel blessed to be the beneficiary of their gourmet forays. I just…can’t get into it myself. Cooking isn’t my thing. And while I’m not embarrassed by my inability to cook, I am super embarrassed by my inability to care that I can’t cook.

In addition to my general culinary failure (and my obscene love of broccoli), here’s another really uncool thing about me: Something I do love to do? Clean. Yeah. Clean. I like to clean. I probably drive my roommates crazy sometimes because they feel bad that I’m doing their dishes and think I’m some kind of neat freak. I’m really not. I’m not actually that bothered by things being messy or dirty. I just get a huge amount of (probably totally neurotic) personal satisfaction from cleaning things. I really do want to pull out all of the heating elements from the burners on the stove and scrub inside the range top until I clear up every bit of grime. I really am only NOT doing it because I’m sure you would think I’m crazy – or you’d feel bad that I’m doing your dishes.

Cleaning is way less cool than cooking. Cooking is an art form. Cleaning is a boring chore. But hey, I already have an art form. You’re lookin’ at it. My writing may not be stellar but it is WAY better than my spaghetti. What I need is a meditative practice – something for which boring chores are great.

So, here’s the deal. I am making a standing offer to all current and future friends, lovers, partners, roommates, family-members and other people with kitchens: You cook. I clean. If you make me dinner, I will do your dishes and clean your kitchen. If you do all the cooking always, I will do all the cleaning always and – here’s the kicker – neither of us gets to feel guilty about it.

The catch: This deal is only valid if you love to cook. It doesn’t count if you’re just doing me a favor because you hate scrubbing. I’m not interested in making an economic exchange. I’m interested in living in a world in which I do stuff I love, other people do stuff they love, everybody respects each others’ love of doing different stuff, and we do it all around each other in ways that are mutually supportive and symbiotic and everybody wins. And gets to eat delicious homecooked food. Off of clean dishes. Every night.

And they all lived happily ever after…

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