Is it OK to hate cooking? Yes, says Adam Liaw

Adam Liaw
Home cooking is not always natural light and rainbow bliss bowls.
Home cooking is not always natural light and rainbow bliss bowls. Photo: iStock

COMMENT

Is it OK to hate cooking? I'll cut to the chase. The short answer is, yes. I know this because I hate cooking, frequently. I think I hated it just last night as a matter of fact.

I'm not sure how it began but some time ago this weird idea began that people who enjoy cooking were "foodies" and just spent all their time spinning around their kitchens like drunk Martha Stewarts, giddy with a near-religious enthusiasm for putting stuff in pots and stirring it around.

The "foodies" would flit between sourcing artisan ingredients and meticulously crafting restaurant-style dishes in their well-appointed marble kitchens (the ones with French copper pots hanging over the kitchen island, pots of herbs such as 'lovage' on the windowsill and not a packet of chips in sight).

They were doing all this while the rest of us were cowering in our kitchens, shamefully shaking frozen peas into a bowl instead of shelling freshly harvested organic ones by hand, one pea at a time, over a rustic wooden chopping board. 

Sometimes, of course, the foodies took a break from arranging lavish brunch spreads to drop a few hundred dollars on a simple meal at some of the country's top restaurants – a few breathtaking images of candlelit food and a selfie with the famous chef included.

This 'artisan' burger is up to foodie standards.
This 'artisan' burger is up to foodie standards. Photo: Bonnie Savage

We'd see the shots on Instagram while our pad Thai was delivered by bicycle.

Foodies just had it better than the rest of us. When you or I had a burger it was evidence of a significant moral failing, but when a foodie did it was at a place with a mural on the wall and a line outside, showing a certain egalitarian appreciation for the common man's food (as long as it was prepared by an "artisan").

"Artisans" got in on the act, too. I'm sure once upon a time an artisan would have been someone who was an expert or especially skilled in a particular trade or field, but these days an "artisan" just seems to be a middle-class person doing something a working-class person would have normally done, or a 30-year-old guy doing something your grandma did, and the result being significantly more expensive.

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Of course, I'm being facetious (mostly), but for all "foodie" culture has done for the appreciation of food, it has at least equally damaged the practicality of it.

Sushi

Sushi 'tacos' with sashimi, avocado and wasabi (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem

I love cooking. I love the process of creativity. I love the rhythm of a sharp knife through a piece of fish, creating a glistening slice of sashimi. I love serving good food to my family, going out to get it, and even having a delivery rider ring the doorbell to let me know my pizza is sitting on my COVID-safe doorstep.

I also hate cooking. I hate incessantly having to go out to the shops and grab ingredients when I have a million other things to do. I hate the Sisyphean cycle of cleaning up a kitchen mess, just to make it all over again. I hate that the things I want to eat just seem to get more and more expensive every time I buy them. I hate having to call my kids to the dinner table 38 times in the same rehearsed pantomime every single night, and sometimes I just have to stare into the middle distance and ask myself "what's the point of it all?"

A love-hate relationship with cooking is a normal thing, healthy even.

Spend all your time cooking and eating for pleasure and you'll end up like the gout-ridden gourmets of French caricature. Eschew the joys of the kitchen completely and you'll be turning your back on one of the most rewarding tasks life has to offer – and one you'll likely need to do every day for the rest of your life, regardless.

The pleasure or pain we take from things is a matter of perspective.

We love sport not so much for the mechanics of a ball being kicked, but for the theatre of the struggle. We read villains and heroes into the most mundane acts, cheering and jeering with full-throated emotion merely because we have chosen to give those acts meaning.

Cooking is the same. Sometimes preparing a simple plate of broccoli and fish can mean security, fidelity, protection, or a connection between an individual and the place and time in which they exist.

Or sometimes it can be a bloody plate of broccoli and fish.