I have a particularly crafty friend who once told me that the phase when you’re bad at a new hobby—when you make a wonky scarf or a lopsided ceramic bowl—is often the most fun part. Something about finding joy in learning new things, in accepting the process, in laughing at yourself. I recognize that my friend is mostly right but I have decided that cooking is not this way. Cooking, both a hobby and (for many) a necessity, can be annoying for an extended period of time, while you’re getting your footing in the kitchen and trying to figure out what you like and also how to make what you like. Learning to prepare a single dish is usually quite easy but learning to cook can be an annoying slog. At least it was for me, and I even consider myself someone who “likes” cooking, even though I think liking cooking is always a complicated sort of thing. Cooking can be very frustrating and it can make you look bad when you are feeling weak. A cheesecake can really kick a woman when she’s down.
In 2011, I was living in Charlotte, NC, a recent college grad in an old but perky little home, offsetting the misery of a soul-flattening corporate job with a budding interest in food and cooking. I spent my days at work reading food blogs and healthy living blogs and using the control-tab function to switch windows to an Excel spreadsheet every time I heard a pair of feet coming towards my cubicle.
- Michelle Rizzolo's Bakery at the Edge of the World
- Best French Fries In The US
- Melissa Weller Tells Us the Secret to Her Perfect Chocolate Chip Loaf
I also started going to farmers markets and cooking myself dinner every night, and I finally began dipping my toes into the world of dinner party throwing. On my own I fumbled, mostly, but it was a necessary sort of fumbling, and I was usually the one who had to deal my with burnt or mushy or oversalted consequences. I’d gotten really into yoga and in an effort to shove meaning and satisfaction into my life I’d signed up for a teacher training course, where I made some very nice adult friends who enjoyed things like meditating and salad and wine with the same gusto that I did. Once a week we’d teach each other yoga in one woman’s garage, the door open on warm summer nights, and then sometimes afterward there would be wine. Finally I invited four or five of these women over for dinner for very average reasons: I wanted them to like me and find my ability to prepare edible food impressive.