I’m in my late thirties now. I don’t like admitting that, I still feel like basically a large teenager. But I have been living away from my parents for twenty years, more or less, and it’s only recently that I realise regular daily cooking has made me a competent home cook. After all, I don’t think of myself as a cook.
But I mean how much can you do something every day for years and not make it something in your skillset?
Back in January of this year, I commented, a little flippantly, that I was going to give up on some things. That I was going to stop trying to be good at some things and just focus on things I already knew how to do, or that looked reasonably easily translated from things I already knew.
How’d that work out?
Perhaps obviously: Content Warning, Food
I Don’t Care About Steak
Steak is some of the most frustratingly uninteresting food to give a shit about. I’ve had steak, I’ve had nice steak – I’ve had steak prepared by professional chefs the way they would prepare it for themselves at home. To this day I cannot think of a single memorable steak.
I can remember some memorable sauces. I can remember some really nice sauces on some pieces of meat that were steak, but I remember those because I was using the bread or potatoes or something starchy to soak that sauce up. Gravies are delicious, and I do like meat dishes with sauces, but… again, there are more interesting, more tender forms of meat, better sauce delivery systems. Know what holds sauce better than steak? Rice and beans!
Part of it is that I just don’t find rare meat attractive. The pinkness always seems uncooked to me. Then there’s the culture around it – this thing where people have these heuristics and gestures and opinions about how to do it right. Even if I liked steak, I think I’d ditch on it just so I didn’t have to get involved in a discussion from tedious people about how I could be making my own food I’m going to stick in my own face better if I could just memorise their process better.
The Worst Part of The Chicken
Every single thing I have to do to chicken breast to make it edible is easier to do to chicken thighs. Chicken breast needs to be managed on a grain, it needs to be tended to sauces, it needs to be worked and prepared and butterflied and all of that in order to be ‘the less good bit’ of the things I’m normally going to just casserole or sear and stick in a burrito or whatever.
Chicken breast is one of those dignified, classy, date night meals? Like when I went looking for recipes there was always a certain ‘ah yes, the two person meal of something something chicken breast.’
I don’t get it. I don’t care. It’s more expensive at the butchers, it doesn’t taste as nice, and it needs more work to be good. It feels like the steak of the chicken. Having resolved to not care any more, I now don’t miss it, and instead buy cheaper parts of the chicken to cook with.
Embrace The Seasoning Packet
Oh, what, you can’t manage your own herb garden, potted plants and arrangement of convenient local waterways? You don’t know how to prepare cumin ahead of time and maximise its reaction time? I bet you like mayonnaise too!
I buy cheap ninety-cent seasoning packets for things like tacos and burritos, and use them as part of sauces and mixes. Since Fox is a hypertaster, and hates the flavour of all of these, this is a way to keep those substances separate from her food without denying me them entirely. And yes, I could stretch even more of it, longer, if I knew how to cook and prep and measure my own.
Or, consider: I could accept that there’s someone out there better at this than me and just not give a fuck.
I am now eating more convenient food I like more and not feeling beholden to have conversations about food with people who think that my tastes are something they need to educate me about. And if you’re thinking ‘oh, Talen, you need to learn how to make proper chicken breast,’ or ‘cooking steak isn’t that hard,’ then kindly fuck off to the moon. I am thirty or forty years old at this point and do not need the aggravation.