Finding the joy of cooking

Jam of the week: “Smile Heavy” by Black Moth Super Rainbow

Lately, I’ve had a strong desire to cook. I realize that statement probably sounds inane to anyone who regularly cooks for themselves and others. However, my on and off desire to become a better cook has finally reached the point where I’m going to have to invest more time in it.

My history with cooking is pretty short and not so sweet. My earliest memory of cooking was trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich in the middle of the night when myself and a couple friends who were staying the night found ourselves hungry after a night of running around the basement. Cut to about fifteen minutes later when my parents come bolting downstairs to a kitchen covered in a small haze of smoke and a fire alarm blaring. I think my parents were more amused than upset.

Regardless, my mother took it as a sign that I did need to know how to cook a bit more. I learned how to prepare a few basic meals, from my nemesis the grilled cheese sandwich to pasta. I didn’t progress much further than that. Between my mother’s dominance of the kitchen and my dad’s thorough knowledge of the grill, I had little space to learn more about cooking. I’m sure they both would have appreciated more help with cooking, but I had little reason to start doing it much on my own.

Through most of college, I went to the school’s dining hall to eat regular meals, ate easily stored pasta and noodle meals in my dorm and went out to eat at any other time. Even when I lived off campus my senior year, my meals weren’t much more than the simple meals that I had learned to make, or had the will to make in between studying, socializing and sleeping.

Having now been out of college for the better part of a year, I still find myself microwaving frozen meat patties in a tray. I was actually chatting with one of my college friends online while eating a bowl of canned pasta when the gravity of my situation hit me: I’m going to have to learn to cook if I want anything better than this. Let me tell you, I need something better than the lukewarm embrace of Chef Boyardee.

The question I’m now left with, having bolstered my resolve by recounting all the terrible meals I make for myself, is what do I do now? I’m sure my mom has a copy of “The Joy of Cooking” somewhere, and I’m sure she could send some recipes my way. Do I need to get a Pinterest account now, or is it OK just ask some of my friends to send recipes they find on that website to me? Does the food network actually have shows that could help me, or is the channel now only comprised of cooking competition and “watch this guy yell at incompetent cooks” shows?

Of course, I could just start trying to make any recipe I find on the internet. That’s less ideal, because an aspect of my desire to cook that I haven’t touched on yet is that it can be more healthy for me. While I would imagine most recipes I could find on the internet that don’t include Nutella would probably be more healthy than going through a drive-through line, I don’t think a recipe for Dorito casserole I found is going to be good for me in the long term.

While my search has barely begun, I feel glad that I’m taking the time to do this. I can now cook without almost setting the house on fire but learning to cook well will be a much greater challenge. It’s one of those things that I might as well learn now, because the benefits will be that much greater down the line.