Cooking Burnout

For some odd reason, I’m always drawn to cookbooks and recipe magazines. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a gift shop on vacation, or waiting in line at the grocery store. They pull me in like a kid to a candy counter. And I devour them. Tasting the ingredients on my tongue as I read and dream about those dishes. Hot, fragrant and fresh from the oven.

As long as I’m not the one cooking them, that is.

Does anybody remember Lisa’s “hot cakes” from the old television show, Green Acres? Okay, I’m not that bad, but my culinary skills definitely leave something to be desired. And unfortunately, I don’t have Zsa Zsa Gabor’s “hotness” factor to make up for my lack of technique in the kitchen.

To be honest, I didn’t realize I even had a cooking problem until recently. Maybe because this deficiency hasn’t always been the case. Over the years, my culinary talents have followed a sort of bell-shaped curve.

As a teen, I started out pretty lame. Never did much cooking while living at home with my parents, aside from acting as “sous-chef” on occasion. During my college days I survived on and bologna ‘n cheese sandwiches supplemented by Doritos, M&M’s, (and sneaking tidbits from my roommates’ home-cooked meals when they weren’t looking). And believe it or not, my hubby cooked dinner the first six years we were married!

Then along came our first child. I became a stay-at-home mom and somehow making family meals ended up on my plate. I was cautious. Started out slow, following simple recipes to the letter. Gradually, my skills improved and I could diverge from the written word a bit. I even figured out how to use the Crockpot we’d received as a wedding gift.

But I think my skills must have peaked about the time my youngest was in middle school because I’ve been on a steady downhill progression ever since.

The thing is, I’m not sure why. It’s not that I don’t like cooking. Cooking is creative and I’m a creative person. Maybe the problem is I try to get too creative. Bored with simply following the recipe, I attempt to add my own personal flair…and fail. Epic fail.

I know part of the issue is being born without that female gene that allows women to multitask. Whenever I am cooking, if I attempt even the tiniest conversation, or to answer the phone or— Heaven forbid—sit down at the computer for “just a sec,” well, forget it. Whatever lovely cuisine I had planned is history.

It’s gotten so bad my son actually photographs my failed dinner “experiments” and sends them to his sister at college with notes attached stating: “SHE EXPECTS ME TO EAT THIS!!!” My daughter in turn finds great humor in posting these photographs on the web within her own blog.

Yeah. Real funny.

I struggled with what to do about this issue, even considered pulling a trick I learned from an old college friend who once confessed he “made dinner” for his new girlfriend by ordering delicious Chinese food from a local restaurant, then raced home to dump it all into his own pots and pans before she arrived.

But that could get expensive.

Then I considered taking cooking lessons. But my youngest is now a junior in high school. In two years we’re empty nesters. What do I need great cooking skills for then? I don’t even have to pretend I’m eating my vegetables anymore if I don’t want to.

I finally concluded the real problem is: I’m burned out. Heck, after 20 years of cooking for my family, I’m ready to retire. So instead of cooking lessons, I think it’s time to pass the scorch—er, torch. Yessiree, maybe I’ll just kick back and let my beloved children do the cooking. How about that? My son can handle the school year, and my daughter can take care of the summers. Sure, they may not be happy about it at first. But I’m actually helping them develop a necessary life skill. It’s only good parenting, right? And for me, it’s a win-win. Nice dinners on the table every night (at least none worse than I’m serving now), and I don’t have to listen to any more jokes or view any more online pictures of my cooking fiascos.

And just for the record, I am a decent baker. I make great snickerdoodles and a mean batch of M & M/chocolate chip cookies. So I’ll still be able to pull off the successful cookie-baking grandma role someday. But for now…

Seriously. I think it’s a good plan.
It’s got potential.


Nancy said...

I love this plan. Hope it succeeds. My husband is our cook. He has been for nearly all of our married life. But like you, I enjoy baking sometimes. I do some great turkey cookies. (No turkeys were harmed in the making.)

TeresaR said...

Count me as another gal who only bakes and whose husband cooks! He's always cooked for us, even after I became a stay-at-home mom. I don't have the talent nor the interest. My mom never cooked me how to cook either. That doesn't stop me from collecting cookbook though.

You're so right: the kids need to learn how to cook!