I don’t know if you’ve spotted, but I rather like cooking. It is very much a favourite pastime of mine, after sleeping, being drunk, and worshipping Satan. Some of that may be an exaggeration. Perhaps.
Cooking, for me, has absolutely nothing to do with entertaining people, or putting smiles on to the faces of my nearest and dearest (as seems destined to crop up in at least one interview in every single competitive cookery programme since the dawn of time): cooking is my alchemy: turning base metals in to gold. Only it’s not gold, it’s something with actual real world, discernible, value: food.
Cooking is also about eating something good, rather than the bland swill most people seem so satisfied with. If I didn’t care about eating things which were pleasurable I could get a supermarket ready meal, or eat at someone else’s house. I do care about eating things which I find pleasurable, so I learned to cook the things which I wanted to eat. What else have you been doing with your time?
I give precisely zero fucks about producing the perfect quenelle. The quenelle is an arbitrary shape of a dollop of food, designed to punish the young and to exclude the old. I can present a plate of food which looks great, and which you want to dive in to, but I am more interested in eating the food.
I have been cooking from a very young age, and watching cookery programmes on TV for longer yet. As a consequence, I don’t understand people who think they can’t cook. I don’t understand people for whom food is fuel. I don’t understand people who don’t enjoy cooking. As far as I’m concerned, if you find cooking a chore, you’re doing it wrong. Cooking for me is a therapeutic form of aggression.
There are very few acceptable forms of aggression in the world today, and that is a positive step in our societal evolution. Yet drowning vegetables and setting fire to dead fish is a way to sustain the life of your child, so give in to it all. Burn those wheat berries; pound those screaming tubers.
I cook alone, because I like to be in control of all of the processes. I have thought them through, and I want everything taken to the point I want it to get to. To be helped by someone would require far too much explanation of the minutiae of what I am looking for, for it to be of any practical benefit.
Plus, I like to develop what I am doing as I am doing it, and people who aren’t in my mind can’t see that I have changed direction. Something may not look like you are expecting it to look; that’s not a problem. I can’t handle the <head tilt> “Shall we just start again?” move which so many people feel is appropriate. Don’t waste food; correct it. Waste is for the lazy. Desist your profligacy, fool.
Yes, it’s supposed to look like that. No, it’s not mouldy. Yes, I can smell burning too. Stop eating the cheese. No, it’s my fourth beer; yes, I will definitely have another. You can open the door if you want to. Yes that knife is very sharp. No, I don’t think we need any more rice. Stop eating the cheese.
Put simply, I cannot accept your offer of help; I would not find it helpful. It doesn’t make me a bad person. You, distracting me when I am in charge of a bunch of hot pans and sharp knives, and getting annoyed with me when I can’t bring you up to speed for fear of burning the house down and injuring everyone in the vicinity, may make you a bad person, however. Please accept that and move on.
Yet still people offer help in the kitchen. Yes, it’s social protocol, and we all know how idiotic they are. Some people, however, have stopped asking if they can help. They’ve stopped for the wrong reasons. All they can see is that I don’t accept help; they refuse to consider that I can’t accept their help. So they meekly hide in another room and make me feel – again and again – that I am an ogre.
I’m not an ogre; I just cook considerably better than you do, and I don’t want to have to spend a year training you to be better in order to let you help me to fry these eggs and not burn this toast.
Other people just keep asking, and when I say no for the four hundred and twelfth time (written in words for your ease), they think I am talking to them like shit. I can’t win. So I turn up the music and hope that they will find some other fun things to do. I am the perennial ogre of the kitchen.
Apparently it makes everyone very uncomfortable when I express my own feelings, so I should just keep them to myself and let everyone feel better about themselves. That sounds like an eminently productive use of my time: I will definitely be doing that. Please, let me make a note of it.
Yes, I may look stressed. Let me refer you to my comments about hot pans and sharp knives. There are people here who would appreciate being fed. What you took as me snapping at you was just a lack of space in my brain, similar to my lack of spare, unburned hands. I can change neither. Stop thinking I’m a bad person because of it and get the fuck out of the kitchen before I start blaming you.