I am very vocal that I don’t cook.
I think it’s important to set expectations. Especially when standard expectations are different from reality. The last thing I want is to be pressured to do something I dislike doing. So I like to set expectations about the fact that I don’t cook.
Mostly I have to set these expectations in dating situations. You can avoid them altogether with friends, nine times out of ten, unless you run with a crowd who hosts constant dinner parties. My friends don’t really have dinner parties very often, though, and it’s more common for us to eat out when we meet up, or just have dessert or a hot beverage. And I have my normal things I bring to potlucks: brownies, or pumpkin cranberry bread, or berry fruit salad, or a nonalcoholic beverage I would actually enjoy drinking. Once in a while I get more creative, but not very often. My brownies are yummy; why mess with a good thing?
I noticed early on that I was expected to know how to cook, and I was expected to be decent at cooking. Also good at meal planning, which I particularly abhor, and grocery shopping, which quickly lost its novelty. But several things conspired to get in the way at a formative age. First, I’d watched my mom cook five meals a week for my entire childhood, and the food was, for the most part, repetitive and bland and something she took no joy in. Second, I had some slow-to-heal injuries through most of my 20s that made it much more difficult (and painful) to do certain key activities, like chopping and handling (and washing) heavy pans. Third, when I worked as a nanny, I did some of the family’s grocery shopping and often started their dinners for them, so the last thing I wanted to do when I got home from work was cook another whole dinner for myself. Fourth, my mom’s OCD meant I’d never learned normal protocols for cooking with meat, so I didn’t feel comfortable doing it.
I have no doubts I could be decent at cooking, given enough practice, but I continue to have no desire to spend the time. Cooking is, most of the time, an activity I find boring and tedious. And between the preparation, the actual cooking, and the clean-up afterwards, it tends to be very time intensive. I want to spend my time doing other things: writing, reading, dancing, spending time with friends, practicing music. (Which means one of the few times I am willing to cook is when it is a social activity.)
And, I discovered early on, I don’t actually have to cook; because my caloric needs are fairly low, I can eat more or less affordably from the frozen section, augmented with a few other simple and basic meals. More affordably, in fact, than I ever seem to eat when I actually try to cook something more ambitious but equally tasty.
I do receive some strange criticism for not cooking. One date assumed I must eat out all the time, and even when I corrected him on this point, was convinced that if only I were to cook the way he thought I should, I would save tons of money, which was very important! Another guy who was trying to pick me up was baffled at how I could resist showing my love for my family and significant other by feeding them (I am certain he would have found much else about me to baffle as well). And then there was the memorable first date during which we were cooking together (because that’s a dating thing to do, for better or for worse) and I forgot to plug in the rice cooker that I’d only used one time before in order to make rice for Nala when she was sick. (Although he was pretty nice about it, so that wasn’t so much criticism as a funny story.)
But to their credit, most people take it in their stride. And last week I helped the Boyfriend plan Thanksgiving and made several of the side dishes. It is not that I can’t cook (I am inexperienced but am usually able to follow a recipe) or even that I won’t cook; it is simply that I prefer not to cook the majority of the time.
(Although yes, I will bake cookies. Gladly.)