The Joy of Cooking was first published in 1936 and has sold more than 20 million copies. I imagine this is because so many people are looking to find this experience. I have personally never had a copy of the book, but I am looking forward to creating the sequel. Since I consider The Joy of Cooking to be of the fiction genre, I will work on the non-fiction version. I can’t quite decide on a title. I’m oscillating between The Joy of Making Reservations and The Joy of Having Someone Else Cook.
When I was growing up, I was not exposed to the culinary arts beyond home economics class, where the only thing I remember is our teacher meticulously dictating, “the water gets read from the bottom of the meniscus,” as we held our glass measuring cups up to eye level. At home, my siblings and I were not allowed in the kitchen until table setting time, so we had no involvement whatsoever in cooking. I do remember watching my mother toss spaghetti strands against the peg board that held her pots and pans and declaring that it was done when it stuck to the wall. Mom was a good cook, but we never were taught her secrets beyond making perfect pasta. At holiday time, my brother, sister and I were allowed to participate in cookie baking, but only until the inevitable arguing started, followed by Mom kicking us out of her domain.
After I got married, my husband did most of the cooking, and if he were working, I made simple meals like frozen fish sticks and peas. After my divorce, I began dating a self-taught master chef. He knew every cut of meat, had every cooking tool imaginable, and had a grill with more controls on it than the space shuttle and knew how to use it. I became his sous chef. This arrangement worked out perfectly until our relationship ended. Alas, my culinary skills (or lack thereof) became the brunt of many a prodding from my children. Even though I graduated way beyond fish sticks, as my kids grew into their teen years, they never truly appreciated that I nourished them into adulthood.
Teaching myself how to cook healthy meals like the ones pictured in magazines was one of my goals during “refirement.” By this time my kids had moved out (escaped my cooking), so I was free to experiment to my heart’s content. I had every intent to prepare all of those delicious recipes I had collected over the years. I was going to organize my favorites from cookbooks, newspaper clippings and internet printouts. I bought myself a fancy food processor and a Vitamix. I installed a spice rack and stocked it with the finest goods and alphabetized it. I bought olive oils and vinegars and shopped organic. I was ready.
After months of trying, I finally had to admit that cooking is not my thing. Although I have become quite good at it, I have come to the conclusion that I dislike cooking. It is much more blissful for me to pack up my notebook and head off to my favorite pub, request a fireside table (or a patio one weather permitting) and relish (pun intended) the experience of having someone else prepare my food and bring it to me.
So if cooking really does bring you joy, feel free to invite me over. I’m happy to be your sous chef, and do all of the clean up. Now there’s another possible title, The Joy of Doing the Dishes.