For many years I never used to cook at all. When Mr Planetcoops and I were first together and were in the negotiating chores part of our relationship, we decided that, whichever of us cooked the other would clean up afterwards. This meant that in reality Mr cooked because I was marginally less vocal about disliking cleaning than he was. Even once I became a housewife, and the entire domestic sphere became officially mine, Mr still did the cooking. We also let supermarkets do lots of the preparation for us, and thought nothing of it.
This post by Sue made me think about this again, because of the comment from Anonymous. A few years ago, I was that Anonymous! Then I realised how limited my views were. I got this book:
and began to yearn for change. A slower pace of life, in which making your own, fixing and crafting are the norm and the dominance of supermarkets is reduced. I applied for an allotment from Basingstoke council. According to the website, there were spaces. According to the person in charge, that was incorrect. In the end I decided that it would probably be quicker to move house than get an allotment in Basingstoke, and this proved to be the case.
Three and a half years ago we moved from our boring house in a modern estate on the edge of Basingstoke to a beautiful timber-framed house in a medieval village in Herefordshire, with a much larger garden. We have fruit trees! And in the enthusiasm of that first harvest I made pots and pots of jam. I still have apple jelly dated 2007. That was part of the dream, but I still didn’t do normal cooking, and on the occasions I had to I was stressed out about it.
Almost three years ago, we had the kitchen replaced. From that time I decided I had to become The Cook. Luckily, before long, I discovered this book:
This book doesn’t have individual recipes, it has meal plans. Six meals a week (one double sized to freeze half), four weeks a month. The first thing I cooked from it was Roast beef with a pepper crust, with garlic new potatoes and green bean and red onion salad. It was a revelation. I was brought up a vegetarian and had never really cooked meat before, and here I was plating up a delicious, adventurous meal. Because the book gave instructions for the meal as a whole I had the confidence to try it all together, and it worked.
I carried on cooking from the book for several months. It taught me how long to fry onions for, how to roast potatoes and how to have a more interesting mix of flavours. Unfortunately it also highlighted how fussy our girls are. They went hungry several days in a row at times, so it would never be a sustainable system in our house.
This book made me realise I could cook, and gave me an interest in making from scratch and doing it properly. It made me realise that a supermarket can never package anything to remotely resemble real, freshly prepared food. It made me realise that it wasn’t cooking that I disliked, it was getting to 5pm and thinking ‘what on earth am I going to make tonight?’
Now, my kids regularly tell me that I make the best pizza in the world, ever. I suspect that’s not quite true, but I definitely beat Tesco’s.