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It’s not your fault if you can’t cook. If you want to prepare and eat delicious healthy foods but are cooking challenged, please know that you are not alone.
Have you tried to cook and have been unsuccessful? Is it frustrating and even embarrassing to come up with a lousy meal after all your hard work? Have you been dissed by your old boyfriend, your mother in law or your wife? Do you convince yourself that you can’t cook and then you don’t cook?
If so, keep reading.
Nearly a decade ago, after encountering countless women (mostly women but a few men) who were overwhelmed by preparing simple recipes, I decided to combine my professional life of counseling, my love of cooking and my desire to help others get food on the table. I started functioning like a Rachael Ray meets Dr. Phil, part cooking teacher and part “how’s that workin’ for ya?” without the moustache. In addition to sharing my strategies on shows like the Today Show, PBS, radio shows and national magazine publications, I work with clients one-on-one and in group workshops to help people overcome their cooking obstacles. The work is often very individual, but there are many things that lots of people benefit from — probably the most consistently helpful piece of information that I impart is that if you have an aversion to cooking, there are reasons why, dating back to childhood as well as your cooking experiences in the present.
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker by profession and I have been cooking my entire life. I have four kids, one with significant special needs, a job, I do a great deal of community work and believe it or not, I’m able to get a home cooked meal on the table every night.
Actually, I cook all the time. That probably doesn’t sound strange coming from a person who wrote a cookbook, but I’ve come to understand that there are a few reasons I cook a lot. And I am certain that after reading this book, I can help you cook more too.
I know, I know, we’re not supposed to equate food with love but food IS love! Food is a way we take care of each other and show love and it can be healthy as well as decadent. Many people, however, feel that if we cannot easily make a meal, we are somehow lacking as a person, a wife, a mother, a woman, a caretaker. There’s often shame surrounding people who don’t feel competent in the kitchen, especially among women.
We also say we’re “too busy” to cook, or that we have no interest, but when we start looking at why we have no interest, or what might free up some time for cooking, what we often find is a set of circumstances or an experience that has literally crushed our desire or ability to master our life in the kitchen.
I repeat: What we often find is a set of circumstances or an experience that has literally crushed our desire or ability to master our life in the kitchen.
Let me start off by dispelling the myth that there is a cooking gene. There is no cooking gene and there is no exclusive club to which only the few Martha Stewart-y ladies belong. Everyone and anyone can cook once you find out what is holding you back.
Many things conspire to keep us away from our kitchens. Yes, we’re busy and we all have plenty of demands. But we also are able to make time for the things that are important to us. So, the first question is, how did cooking become unimportant? Here’s a little history class I like to call “How Women Got Booted Out of the Kitchen 101” that may shed some light:
There would have been no need for a book like this in the 1950s or ‘60s because, for the most part, women believed the kitchen was a place for them. There was no conflict or questioning; women just cooked. We were taught strategies and tricks in the kitchen from our mothers and grandmothers, which made for a smooth transition to our roles as wives. We collected recipes from magazines, family and friends to add to our repertoire. But by the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the expectations on women changed dramatically, for better or for worse!
Not only have we been led to believe that women should focus on a career, many of us were never taught to cook as a result. This shift has left many of us conflicted about our role in the kitchen. There are literally hundreds of alternatives to preparing and eating fresh cooked food. Most of those options are easy, but they’re not healthy for us, and they’re not healthy for our children (think frozen pizzas and boxed chicken nuggets). We want to nurture ourselves and our families — but we don’t want to be expected to cook. And over most of our lifetimes, the “food industry” marketing machine has made it easier and easier not to.
I realized early on in my role as cooking coach that just because someone struggles in the kitchen, it doesn’t mean she has the same struggles as someone else. Some people dread shopping or can’t bear the criticism, while others are afraid of serving undercooked meat to their kids. My giving any of them advice on which food processor to buy is really not going to help them get comfortable in the kitchen.
In order to take back your kitchen, you need to explore your cooking past and present. What makes you tick in the kitchen, what I call your “Cooking Personality”.