Yes You Have To Learn New Things

Cooking-real-food-for-myself month is going fairly well – not perfectly, but well. I’ve only broken my eating out rules twice – once for a special event that wouldn’t be there in June (Food Truck Park! OMG!) and once because I just failed to bring lunch to work and went and got sushi. Oh well. More on my work lunch troubles in a later post. And I’ve had a few sub par dinners, but mostly not. Tonight I read my oven manual, and I was struck by just how resistant I’ve been to learning the various skills of cooking.

I have recently moved house, so I’m pretty unfamiliar with my oven. When I first tried to turn it on I was very frustrated by the fact that it wasn’t obvious, and I sort of flailed around thinking “I just want heat! Why is this so hard!” But I eventually worked that out and have been cooking with it for the last month. And I’ve realised it’s the best oven I’ve ever had access to. This is a pretty new apartment block, only a few years old, and it has high end appliances, as opposed to the long string of weird old/small/semi-broken ovens that I’ve had for my whole life. This is, in fact, the first oven I’ve ever lived with that doesn’t have a broken timer.

Tonight in order to find out if I had pyrolytic cleaning (there is a magical way to make an oven clean itself? Bring it on!) I actually really sat down and read the manual, at a time when I wasn’t in a hurry or anxious to get food. And while I don’t have a pyrolytic cleaning feature (it turns out – though there’s this vapour one I mean to try) I did actually read through what all the settings did and what they’re for. And it’s made the oven feel a lot less intimidating, and made me much more interested in trying to bake again (I have a shaky history with baking – I can do muffins and scones and that’s about it). In fact I might take another pass at kringel, a food I have been eating for Easter my whole life and that I’ve never successfully made (although I’ve ruined several).

And here’s the thing – it didn’t take me much time at all to read that oven manual. Maybe 15 minutes? I was just really resistant to it. I wanted to cook, but I hadn’t really bought into the idea enough to really want to spend effort on it. When I’m super into something I spend a huge amount of time reading and practising and working on that thing. But if I’m not interested I get frustrated very easily and spend a lot of time ranting about how I just want it to work, and whining about how hard it is (that I have to read a few pages of a manual…?).

As I get used to the dishes I can already make I’m going to need to learn new ones. I’ve already mentioned that being inspired by the results of my cooking makes me more interested in, you know, doing the actual cooking part. Upping my cooking skills will broaden my repertoire of stuff I can make that I like to eat, and will just improve the quality of everything I cook. And that will make cooking more appealing. Neither of my parents were especially into cooking, and I’m a vegetarian who comes from a culinary tradition that’s heavy on the meat and potatoes so I’m not particularly into copying my grandmothers’ dishes (not the savoury ones anyway). I learnt a couple things in cooking in home-ec at highschool, but not a lot. I’ve bought a lot of cook books but mainly they’ve sat on the shelf. I could stand to learn a lot of skills – not just how to use my oven.

Takeaway Lessons: If you want to start doing something you need to invest in it enough to actually put some time and energy into learning to do it better. Odds are that if you don’t do it often, you’re not great at it and could stand to learn more. YouTube exists and contains many tutorials.

My challenge for June is this – to focus on upping my skills and cooking things I’ve never made before. In order to keep it achievable, I plan to make one new thing I’ve never cooked before each weekend, and each week to pick one cooking skill and study up on it a bit and practice using it properly at least once that same week.



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