Being a bad cook jeopardised my relationship

Instant noodles too difficult!

I’ve always been an eater, not a cooker. My secret skill is the ability to identify what tastes great, but I can’t tell you how to make it. It’s a skill that annoys my wife too many a time. “I can’t help it. I just can’t cook,” I often reminded her but she lectured me time and again that the operative word isn’t “can’t”. It’s “won’t.” My small-minded ego was insulted by the insinuation that I was lazy, not just incapable by the lack of God-given talents. “I’ll show her,” I thought to myself as I schemed to cook the best instant noodles she ever had but even that was too difficult for me to cook. But I get ahead of myself. So, let’s start at the beginning so you can follow how my being a bad cook jeopardised my relationship with my then-girlfriend.

Spoilt youngster

Growing up, my parents had always cooked for me. The meals were not bad but not gourmet either though I know I was lucky to have been fed 3 square meals each day, especially being from a big family of very modest means. I would be churlish and ungrateful to complain but in hindsight, this act of parental love inadvertently shielded me from having to step into the kitchen and cook for myself.

A Bad Cook – burnt eggs on non-stick fry pan

Burnt eggsIn the very rare moments when I dared to cook, it was always only very simple things like boiling eggs or toasting bread. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I became somewhat comfortable frying an egg. All my other attempts resulted in my destroying the non-stick fry pan as I burnt the egg onto the teflon… and there’s only so many fry pans that I could afford to trash without selling the house.

Hapless in the kitchen

Whenever my parents saw me bumbling around the kitchen trying to scratch up something to eat, they would push me aside, insisting that they would cook for me. Seemingly without any effort, they would throw together some fried rice, a bowl of noodles or slap together a decent meal from leftovers. I’m sure it wasn’t 100% charity for me or pity. They were probably worried that I’d burn the house down.

A cultural thing?

Bless my parents’ hearts for cooking for me as a youngster but I wonder how much of the Asian culture insulated me from cooking. You see, boys in a lot of Asian cultures are (erroneously) put on a pedestal compared to girls. Why, boys should not be burdened with menial chores such as cooking. I mean, imagine what that would do to our manicured hands. I can’t blame my culture for this but it did reinforced my disinterest for cooking… plus a little ineptitude (or a lot in my case) doesn’t hurt. As they say, if you do a job badly enough, others simply don’t want you to do it.

A debacle of instant proportions

Instant noodlesI married relatively young – mid-twenties – and given that I had lived at home until I tied the knot, there wasn’t an extended period of time where I was on my own and had to find my way around the kitchen with a fry pan and oven.

One time when I was going out with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, I said I was feeling a bit peckish. My girlfriend asked if I’d like her to cook something for me. No, I insisted because I would cook for the both of us; trying to win boyfriend brownie points. “I’ll whip up something real quick,” I replied, forgetting that I had never really cooked in my life but how hard was it to cook instant noodles?

As soon as I headed to the kitchen, I knew I was in trouble. You see, “cooking” instant noodles for me up to that point either meant adding hot water to cup noodles or using a specifically designated pot to cook in. The slight problem was that the noodles we had were in packets – not cups – and the pot was only big enough to make a meal for one.

“Not a worry,” I thought to myself. “Nothing that I can’t fix.”

So, I grabbed a pot, boiled the water and threw in the condiments with the packets of noodles, stirring it in the pot. It was easy enough and when it was done, I proudly presented a serving to my girlfriend and one for myself. She gobbled a spoonful of noodles and spat it out immediately.

“You should’ve waited until it cooled,” I lectured.

“This is awful. It has no taste!” she said.

That was when I found out about proportions. Apparently, filling a 30cm wide, 13cm deep, pot with water to the brim would render the soup tasteless. Well, dang, who knew? Whatever I didn’t know about cooking, I knew that I had to marry this woman soon or face a lifetime of tasteless, over-diluted instant noodles.

Brownie points and more…

Throughout the years, I’ve used so many excuses about why I can’t (won’t) cook:

“I don’t know how”

“I’m too busy”

“The oven is broken”

“I don’t want to ruin the fry pan”

… and the list goes on and on.

As a health-conscious eater – no, that’s not a euphemism for counting calories or eating rabbit food – my preference has been to eat home-cooked meals, not least because it is often more delicious compared to eating out (that should win me some brownie points with the missus).

That is great when meals are cooked for me but when my wife wants a break or isn’t home, I’m often left with one option: ordering pizza. That isn’t so bad for the first few times but even pizza gets a little boring after a while. So, at the ripe young age in the early forties, I’ve decided to turn “can’t”, or “won’t cook” to “I will cook”. At least, I will try to learn in between writing my next book and work.

You can follow my journey by subscribing to my newsletter under the Blogs menu. Wish me luck!

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