You know those quizzes for kids where they show them a row of pictures like three farm animals and a ladder and ask which is the odd one out? Well if you did an adult version consisting of various people preparing various foodstuffs, I would be the ladder. Every second blog seems to be about food and I sometimes feel as though I have a dirty little secret because I DON’T LIKE COOKING. If I were given the choice of never having to clean another bathroom or never having to make another dinner, I would have grabbed the Harpic and toilet brush before you’d even finished the question. It’s genetic. My mother would often say she would rather clean the house from top to bottom than cook every day – and she was Italian. The Italians are supposed to love their food – and she did – but like me, she would have liked it better if someone else had prepared it.
We have a fairly standard routine in our house when it comes to the week’s dinners – my husband barbeques a couple of nights, we have take-away one night, we might go out one night and I cook the rest of the time. I know…it’s not even a lot, right? But lately that’s all come undone because husband has been on a particular diet for medical reasons and the barbeque was in such perilous condition, the serviceman disconnected it from the gas because it was unsafe to use. Yeah, thanks for that. So I’ve had to cook almost every night. And it’s not like I have a demanding husband. If I really don’t feel like cooking, he’s quite happy to make himself some bacon and eggs or a salad with canned tuna. When my son was little, I used to run into a mother at the local park who had a toddler, a baby and a husband who expected three courses, on the table, at the same time, every night. See you in Divorce Court, honey. Better luck with the next one.
And it’s not that I can’t cook. I have a reasonable repertoire of dishes and am quite willing to try a new recipe. Despite the fact none of these whiz-bang contestants on Masterchef can manage an edible risotto (except one, who made it with quinoa and caused an earth tremor because all the Italian mammas watching fainted), mine is the teenager’s favourite dish and I always have to make enough so he has at least two days’ worth for after-school devouring. The simple fact is I just don’t enjoy it. I feel that same way about preparing a meal as most women feel about ironing – it’s something that has to be done so you put your head down and just get on with it. Except I love ironing. I light a scented candle, put on some daggy music and either become a contestant on X Factor or just let my mind drift where it pleases and at the end I have a pile of beautiful, crease-free clothes that give me a greater sense of satisfaction than any culinary achievement.
Sometimes my husband goes interstate or overseas for business and I lose total control – my son and I go out or get home delivery every night. It’s like the stove ceases to exist. The pantry doors rust shut. Only the fridge remains operational for milk, salad and chocolate. Salad, you say? Yes, because now it comes in a bag and all I have to do is open it – so I lied about the pantry because I need the olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the dressing. After years of banging on about healthy food and comparing his body to a car that only runs properly with the right fuel, yadda, yadda, yadda, the teenager still eats the occasional McDonalds or KFC but prefers Indian or Thai and is particularly partial to the Lobster Tails at Outback Steakhouse. He can cook his own pasta, whip up a San Choy Bow and pan-fry sweet potato till the cows come home so it’s not like it’s junk central while his father’s away. What it is though, is bliss for me and I don’t even feel guilty – not even one tiny, miniscule little pang.
This is not a paid endorsement but for anyone who feels the same, may I recommend Marion’s Kitchen Red Curry. She was a contestant on Masterchef a couple of years ago, I think and has brought out a line of Asian/Malaysian kits of which this is one. I tried the Green Curry but was not overly fussed whereas the Red Curry is a staple in my kitchen and there are always a couple of boxes in the pantry. The kit comprises red curry paste, coconut cream, fish sauce and curry herbs – basic and simple. All you need to do is provide whatever meat and/or vegetables you prefer, some water and 20 minutes later, voila, you have a really delicious, easy meal on the table. It’s available in all the supermarkets, usually in the International Foods section. I’m sure a lot of people would say it’s just as easy to make it from scratch but this way there is just the right amount for one meal and I don’t have bottles and jars of ingredients lying around that I have to use up before they go ‘bad’.
Lastly, for any Trekkies reading this, remember the Enterprise’s crew only had to stand in front of that tube, speak their request and their meal would materialise? Well never mind the bloody Thermomix – that’s an idea worth working on.