My mother tried to teach me how to cook, but I was not interested. She made me sit next to her while she prepared the meal, but I did so with a textbook in my hands.
When I left for college, I could fix a sandwich, and that was it. Because I lived in a dorm my first year, I had no need to cook. The next year I applied for and was accepted into a house operated by the Soroptimist League. There were ten girls in my house, ten more in the second. We took turn cooking.
At first, I opened cans of soup and offered plain white bread and oleo. This did not go over well with my housemates who were used to more elaborate meals. I found an easy-to-use cookbook in the university book store. It became my bible.
Even armed with recipes, however, my staple ingredient was hamburger as that was all I could afford. I served hamburgers and meatloaf. Past with ground beef. Eggs with hamburger patties. They complained so badly that I was not permitted to return the next year.
My senior year I moved into a complex for older students. I shared a suite with three women. We ate no meals together, a huge relief. I still relied on cans of soup and vegetables, eggs and toast, jelly and hamburger.
My brother, who attended the same university, heard about a dented can store. We became regulars. I bought boxes easy-to-fix pastas, cake mixes, pancake mix, bisquick mix and a variety of canned goods. My meal options improved considerably.
After college, when I could afford my own apartment, my repertoire was still limited to what came out of cans and boxes. My boyfriend introduced me to frozen, battered fish. He cooked most of our dinners, thankfully, as he was great with a barbeque. All went well until after we married.
I now had a variety of cookbooks for the cooking-impaired. Searching for something new, I came across a stuffed zucchini that seemed doable. I prepared it the night before, put it in the refrigerator. The next night I heated the oven and put in the dish. It cracked, ruining the meal. I cried.
I fixed pancakes that weren’t done, bacon that was fried to a crisp, overcooked vegetables and dry biscuits. My husband, being a good sport, never complained.
Over the years I continued to ruin food. We bought a house that had a pear tree in the backyard. I made a pear cake that was so bland that it was inedible. I made pear jam that was equally bad. We also had an orange tree that I used to make somewhat edible cakes and jams.
I relied on sales and additional cookbooks that I found at thrift stores. The first time I fixed game hens, they were pink inside. Every time I cooked chicken, unless it swam in sauce, it was the same.
I made a pretty decent meatloaf and using boxed pizza dough mix, got pretty good there, as long as you didn’t mind thin, soggy dough.
I quit experimenting and relied on those meals that I could prepare with some degree of success. Unlike naturals cooks, I never knew if there was enough salt, seasoning, water, or too much of all of them. I could not substitute or vary the recipe in any way.
My family almost always ate what I prepared, but the nights when my husband cooked, they devoured the meal.
No one went hungry except by choice, even when the meal was barely edible.
When my husband retired eighteen years ago, he took over cooking. What a relief!
Since then, I have never prepared a meal for anyone except myself. I can microwave veggie burgers and frozen lunches. I tried cutting my own mangoes, but I found it easier to buy them pre-cut.
Prepared salads are a staple in my diet, along with yogurt, fresh fruit and microwavable oatmeal.
I do wonder what would happen to us if something prevented my husband from fixing dinner. Most likely I’d get in the car and go buy something from a restaurant. And if I can’t drive anymore, I’d learn how to use a food-delivery app on my phone.
My family survived my cooking disasters. If I ever have to return to cooking, we’d survive again, although relying on already prepared food.