Why didn’t anybody ever tell me?!

To be fair, I probably never gave them the chance.

I’ve always disliked cooking. I think I was about thirteen when I tried making something in the kitchen, failed miserably, and subsequently decreed then and there that I would never be “domestic.” (Thanks to feminism, this was an option for me.) My mother was none too fazed by my proclamation, mainly because overdramatic life assertions were kind of my calling card back in the day (and still now and forever and foralways). She calmly told me that I would just have to find myself an Uncle Tom—referring to her brother who did the bulk of the cooking in his house while his wife, Laurel, got to do awesome things that weren’t cooking. It was settled: I added “must be a good cook like Uncle Tom” to my list of marriage qualifications, right after “must love Jesus” and “must be easily mistaken for Chauncey Billups or actually just be Chauncey Billups.” (What? Who didn’t want to be Mrs. Big Shot back in 2004? The vast majority of you? Oh.)

But I went to college and found neither a Chauncey nor an Uncle Tom, but a Mitch. A Mitch who has never been known to do this and who didn’t think there was a difference between Kraft macaroni and cheese and the sad generic look alike. That just about ended things right there. But we held on through many mac and cheese dinners, and it didn’t take long for him to see the light. It did take long, however, for us to make ourselves any dinner that wasn’t a simple pasta: Kraft mac and cheese, Pasta Roni, vermicelli noodles and Prego tomato sauce. Rinse and repeat. At one point a friend introduced us to the glory that is pizza muffins, and we thought we were fancy as all get out. Because we made PIZZA MUFFINS. Guess what? Pizza muffins = NOT FANCY. But it required us to use a cutting board and a muffin tin and the mysterious oven, so by golly, we were really stretching ourselves.

So how did we get here, to the point where I look up recipes in my free time, ones that we actually intend to make? The short answer: a bevy of resources and good old-fashioned guilt. We got married, and suddenly there was this room of pots and pans and spatulas and measuring cups and blenders and spice racks (it’s been said that some call this room a “kitchen”). What were we going to do, not use it? “Dear relative, thanks for the crockpot, we are currently using it to make a vat of dust.” These were not the kind of thank you cards we wanted to send, so we got to work. Mini shepherd’s pies, shakshuka, pizza quinoa stuffed portabella mushrooms, chicken shawarma–we tried it all, with varying levels of success. We even tried to class up our macaroni and cheese, first with an unhealthy but delicious beer mac and cheese and then with a healthier but slightly more involved butternut squash mac and cheese. (I for one, though, will never turn my nose up at a fresh batch of Kraft.)

In the past, I thought cooking was just work. Following recipes and making precise measurements and using sharp knives and remembering to stir the pot and oh yeah the pot happens to be sitting on a FIRE we intentionally lit inside the house–all of these things added up to stress, and lots of it. But now that we’ve been practically consistently (and actually have the right tools and spices), I’ve found that cooking is still work, but it is such rewarding work. When we get done cooking, our reward is a hot, home-cooked meal, and usually it tastes pretty good. And even when it doesn’t, there is a sense of accomplishment, and a strong desire to do better: maybe a pinch of paprika would help? Or a dash of oregano? Perhaps a smidgen of cumin?

But the real question is: what’s for dessert?

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