I know it’s (probably) a relatively small subset of the population, but as a millenial gal doin’ it for herself, I just do not identify with my homegirls that don’t know how to cook. Occasionally I come across whispers of this in the blogosphere—”Every time I try to cook I almost burn my house down!”—and I don’t understand the impulse to brag about one’s incompetency. I don’t shout into the void about how much I sucked at Pre-Calculus.
This is not a gender issue, by the way. It’s not about girls or women, and I am not policing how someone should be a woman. Men are often even worse offenders, which is why I’ve never understood how chef-dom is such a boys’ club. Some people are just too damn busy to cook, and that’s fiiiiine. But you have to know how. Just the basics! How does one make it through adult life without such a basic skill set?
I, personally, can be excessive. Cooking, for me, is a hobby and a complete joy. I woke up at 5 of 7 the other morning and made doughnuts. I understand that this impulse is not normal, nor should it be. But I don’t exactly come from a point of culinary privilege. I baked with my grandmother as a tiny kid, but my mother didn’t sit me down and painstakingly instruct me in the art of soup-making or whatever. I learned (and continue to learn) everything I need to know from books and the internet, starting when I was about 18 and became interested in providing for myself.
My fiancé on the other hand—oh boy. I often wonder how he keeps from starving to death when I’m at work. His mother, the wonderful minha sogra, is a badass cook who continues to frequently send food over, so he never had to learn. He once literally fucked up while making tea. He poured the water through the whistle hole in the spout and wondered why it made a dribbling mess.
How and what people feed themselves has long been a fascination of mine. I’ll read or watch any book or documentary about the food industry, cooking, or food culture that I can get my hands on. As I’ve often said, Michael Pollan is my Elvis.
Making the time to cook is the only way to gain complete control over your nutrition. I want to know the source of everything I put into my body. I can’t advocate for cooking enough. But don’t listen to me! Listen to some of these smart people who know things!
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan
This book changed my life. I think I was 22 when I read it, and newly living with Michael. As the chef of the house and primary food-provider in general, I was cured of so many bad habits by Pollan’s prose. Pollan is not a vegetarian, but advocates for a predominantly plant-based diet based on years of research. He’s written a ton on the subject, but this book goes into the FDA, “food science,” and marketing.
He also has a Netflix docu-series called Cooked that is so inspiring!
The motto? *Drake voice* “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
Not for the faint of heart. If you like your pets, you might come out of this read a vegetarian. The backstory is that JSF was about to become a father and, saddled with the new responsibility of feeding a living, breathing, separate human, went out and investigated the food industry’s impact on us, animals, and the environment. The nice thing about this book is that it’s not preachy, at all. At no point does explicitly advocate ditching animal products from your diet. It’s a just-the-facts-ma’am presentation. I use the chapter on the fishing/trawling industry constantly as a justification for why I don’t eat seafood (other than its vile taste and smell).
Skinny Bitch, Rory Friedman & Kim Barnouin
Skinny Bitch has definitely been put through the ringer, and at this point in my life, I’m not completely down with their message (they recommend imitation meat products, which is so beginner-level and not my style) but this book woke me the eff up when I was a teenager. I am aware that advocating for thinness is behind the times, but the title is misleading. It’s a book about veganism, health, and the heinous conditions of factory farming—the inflammatory title just created a buzz (smart marketing). A note: this book was published before everyone started carrying almond milk, so take their suggestions with a grain of salt.
Memorable quotation: “Soda is liquid Satan.”
What else should I check out?