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Can you be a Chowhound if you don't like to cook?

I consider myself very much a hound. I love food. I love trying new things, out of the way things, finding out the history of foods, exploring new cuisines, etc. but I do not like to cook.

I am a passable cook when I have to be. I have a few very good dishes, but everything else is about 80-90% there at best. I don't find comfort in cooking. It's a burden, a task and the vast majority of the time I would rather eat out, bring in take out, or get something prepared by a nice market.

When I cook at home (or bring my lunch to work), it's because of finances and/or weight maintenance. Surely, I cannot be the only hound who feels this way.

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  1. I'll bet you are not alone- I don't like to bake, but I do love dessert! I do LOVE to cook, though.

    1. i feel as you do that cooking is a burdensome task best left to others. thankfully, my husband does like to cook and is good at it and we love going out to eat as well.

      1. Why sure you can! A Chowhound is someone who lives to eat. And if you cook the way I do (not very well), it would be more Chowhoundly to leave the cooking to someone else. Not everyone has a talent (or, in my case, the patience) to be a great cook.


        1. I am right there with you, Janet. Funny thing is I have over 30 cookbooks. I just like to read them and try to imagine what the dishes would taste like. And drool over pictures if there are any.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chaddict

            I have lots of cookbooks also and love to read them also....LOL I also enjoy reading the Home Cooking board here and I am truly in awe of some of the fine cuisine the posters here create.

          2. Sure, just as you don't have to be a musician to like good music.

            1 Reply
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                That's OK RL,...stuff is constantly being re-asked on the SF board too. You yourself are tirelessly kindly in giving out the same information for the umpteeth time. But, I think the current question was resolved as, YES you can be a cowhound if you hate to cook. rw orange is a case in point. Me? I'd actually rather cook it than eat it in a restaurant if it's something I do well, if it's something over my head - by all means bring it on, and if it's fabulous, as I eat it I'll be trying to figure out how to cook it myself.

              2. Absolutely. I never cook but mainly because worse than the actual cooking is the clean up afterwards. If you think cooking is a burden, then cleaning up is cooking's evil brother. I think I would be more inclined to cook if I could make a huge mess and then everything would magically clean itself and put itself away.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Scott M

                  The thing you have to do is clean up as you go. Don't wait til the end of the meal to do all the dishes/pots/pans. If you've got a few minutes while something is in the oven or doesn't need your constant attention, wash whatever you can in the meantime. Or, get someone else do clean up! Presuming, of course, it's not a fancy dinner party and don't want to burden the guests. If cooking for family or close friends, they should be glad to help clean up.

                  1. re: rednails

                    My kitchen's often cleaner when I'm done cooking than when I started. In addition to cleaning up as I go, I look for ways to minimize the number of dirty pots and pans, and for mixing, measuring, and so on I use things I can toss in the dishwasher.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Mine is always pretty clean but I have long made the clean as you go my proceedure. It is nice to just load the dishes into the dishwasher, give the last pan a little scrub and turn off the light knowing the kitchen will be clean and ready the next AM. I think I got this way because my mother could dirty every pan in the kitchen boiling water and my sister and I always got the clean up duty and yes, minimizing the number of pans and bowls is key.

                      I made that Bouchon rabbit pate today and it involved much chopping, grinding, mixing etc. I shudder to think of the mess if my dear mom had made it.

                      1. re: Candy

                        Where did you get the pork fatback? I'm eager to try makig this but stymied for that one ingredient.

                  2. re: Scott M

                    I agree... this is *the only* reason I don't cook more often... either I'm dreading cleaning up from the night before (or 5 nights before!) to start cooking or I'm dreading cleaning up after I'm done cooking that night! It's a vicious circle!

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      I don't mind cleanup from the average dinner. If I cook, I clean as I go. Hubby makes a mess when he cooks, but it's misdemeanor stuff, not felony. However, I dread Thanksgiving every year for several reasons, but one is all I can think about during dinner is facing the kitchen afterwards.

                    2. re: Scott M

                      That's why you marry a non-cooking spouse. My DH is fondly referred to as the "house slave" while I am the "cook slave".

                      1. re: cheryl_h

                        Yes, I count myself lucky too. Tho the poor guy, I tend to cook like Candy's mom - but at least he eats extremely well!

                    3. It is completely possible, especially in an area with lots of amazing things to discover and remember and tell others about. It just gets a bit expensive...

                      1. I sure hope so since I love to eat, but I am not particularly interested in cooking especially since my kitchen is small and cluttered and there are so many wonderful restaurants in NYC. I too love cookbooks and watch TV cooking shows daily.

                        1. Of course. My wife and her mother are both avid chowhounds; Mrs. O can cook very well but much prefers that I do it (fine with me!), and Maman is...well, she does nice desserts, but Papa does the serious stuff.

                          1. Although Chowhounding is about the love of food, and finding adventure and passion in it - I find it incredibly hypocritical when a "foodie" will criticize a restaurant on how something isn't "cooked properly"- even though they could never attempt to do it themselves. I think a basic knowledge of how food is prepared is necessary, in order to define oneself as a Foodie or Chowhound. But i'm bias... i'm a chef.

                            Knowing how to cook broadens my understanding of food on a whole other level than before i had fully learned how to do basic cooking procedures.

                            1. I think cooking and eating food that you have made yourself is a very different way to relate to food than eating food that someone else has made. One is not better than the other. But cooking IS a whole other way to enjoy food.

                              1. Janet from Richmond, Of course you can be a Chowhound if you don't like to cook! My best example is my husband. He loves good food, is willing to try anything and is a forever-eager test audience. He is also a concert pianist. When we designed our house, we put a piano in the kitchen. He plays while I cook ... la-la-la, chop-chop-chop. I enjoy wonderful music without the drugery of me trying to play music. I can do it but it is work for me and I do not enjoy it at all, yet I love the finished product.

                                So here we are, a pair of very different hounds, having the best of both worlds.

                                P.S. I only know one person who enjoys cleaning a messy kitchen (and she's certifiably nuts!)

                                1. To answer by analogy. I don't have a clue how to paint but I know quite a bit about art history and I'd like to think I have an appreciation of paintings. But there's a dimension lacking. I once took a woman who was quite a good portrait painter to a museum. Look at that, she said, pointing at what was to me a particularly boring expanse of flesh in an 18th century portrait. It took at least twenty different colors mixed together to get that tone. Look how he's varied the color mix there and there. Now let's talk about the different kinds of brush strokes he used to get the shading right, etc. It's the same with food. In fact, I think a chef could be a really good restaurant reviewer.

                                  1. In my opinion, I find it bizarre that if you like food, you don't want to spend the time to learn how to cook. Although somebody compared it to enjoying music and not having to learn how to play music, you don't go to three concerts a day. If you really enjoy music, wouldn't you pick up an instrument and try to learn the basics. Maybe you wouldn't expect to be a virtuoso, but every bit still helps. At any rate, in my opinion, good cooking takes less time to learn than most people think.
                                    After that, I think to me there are two main reasons to cook. 1) You decide and know what goes into your food. This way if you have a personal preference or food allergy, you are in complete control. 2) It's much cheaper and satisfying to cook food yourself. I like that I can through successive attempts get closer to my favorite roast chicken for example. Coupled with the previous reason, you can add subtle differences to differentiate what you can get at a particular restaurant.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: spchang

                                      When I cook it is MUCH less satifying and not much less expensive. It's a source of stress and frustration. I love eating out...whether it's a very casual place or a fine restaurant, I like the whole experience and find the food tastes MUCH better and I am happier all-around.

                                      1. re: spchang

                                        I disagree - there are many people I personally know (Janet, the originator of this thread, my sister, and many others) who love wonderful food and enjoy the eating of wonderful food. However, they just don't get enjoyment out of preparing the food themselves as much as they do eating it.

                                        There are others, like myself, who enjoy wonderful food, but who also love the process of cooking to create something new and exciting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it flops. But I *love* trying to create something new - or even preparing something tried and true...I love the process of cooking. It's calming to me. But that's just me. For my sister, she'd just as soon throw some chicken into a bottled marinade, grill it and go. Whereas I love creating my own marinades from flavors I like. My sister still ENJOYS good food; she just doesn't want to spend the time CREATING it.

                                        Your statement of really enjoying music and learning an instrument doesn't fly, at least with me. I love music - many different kinds of music - and really enjoy going to concerts. I took piano lessons growing up, and eventually grew bored with it. But I *still* love live music, and appreciate the fact that those in the band who learned how to play those instruments are also getting enjoyment out of playing for me.

                                        I don't need to know how to play a guitar to enjoy listening to someone who does play a guitar. I just know Eric Clapton is a virtuoso at doing so, and stand in awe of him when I see him in concert.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          You said it better than I, on all counts even the Clapton part. I love to cook, and it's one of the few ways that I really express myself creatively. I have zero artistic or musical talent, although I enjoy music tremendously.

                                      2. Sure.

                                        I'm enjoy art. Can I do it?..>not really.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                          In the end what it comes down to is the enjoyment of the meal. Some people enjoy the creative process and getting their hands ‘dirty’. While other get the same enjoyment out of the restaurant experience.

                                          And quite frankly we need to go out and try restaurant other wise how does one discover new things. There are some ethnic foods that I have no idea how to cook or what they should really taste like. There’s also the practicality aspect. I can’t very well go out and install a tandouri oven in my apartment. The only way to rectify these issues is to ‘go out’.

                                          It’s about the food. Regardless of who cooked it.

                                        2. As a chowhound I can prepare a decent enough meal for myself and a few people that will garner compliments but I choose not to. I have a small kitchen and it's just a lot of work to me, shopping, prepping, cleaning up. I want the end result of deliciousness and not the beginning first act or third act (dirty dishes).

                                          I know what's good - do I need to learn how to play the piano in order to enjoy music or learn to paint to appreciate Picasso? It would probably help a bit but food is a necessity and art is art. Let me rephrase - Chowhounding and delicious food is a Living Art: the culinary arts. We've all read about celebrity chefs who just want a delicious burger on their days off. They don't need all the bells and whistles.

                                          Anyway, to answer your question, people just don't cook as much anymore - whether by preference or lifestyle. They prefer going out and meeting with friends and dining in restaurants and spending less time in the kitchen. That doesn't make them less of a chowhound - it probably exposes us more to cuisines than our grandmothers who stayed home cooking regional dishes. Now some of our grandmothers prepared delicious sauces and stews and homemade breads and puddings. Some served Swanson's TV dinners and Wonder Bread! ;)

                                          1. Something just occured to me: when I am able to cook something really well and enjoy the unalloyed pleasure of eating my creation, and having my loved ones enjoy it, I feel a great sense of control that is absent in other areas of life. The "terror alert" may be red, but my teriyaki chicken, brown rice and salad with the pepperoncino peppers, heirloom tomatoes and cukes last night was so very delicious. I don't get this wonderful psychological payoff of security and control at all when I eat in a restaurant. The experience is totally out of control, even if it's a fine restaurant, and you've enjoyed the same dish there many times before...TODAY they could be breaking in a new cook who will screw it up, or they're trying out a different brand of olive oil that just doesn't hit the spot for you...and, if you're a CHOWHOUND, it could just ruin your day.

                                            1. I think you're cheating yourself and the ones close to you out of a whole different food/chowhound experience if you don't cook. We all enjoy and want to share with other 'hounds our restaurant experiences but that is only one level. Food is love. Sharing home cooked meals that are unique, well prepared, using some of the best ingredients is a mainstay of being a quintessential chowhound. My cooking has dramatically improved, and I was damn good to begin with, not because of the Home Cooking board, but because of my expanded food knowledge and new found restaurants. All this found here on Chowhound. To me, cooking is a natural extension of being a Chowhound.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Scagnetti

                                                But if someone doesn't LIKE to cook, as Janet said in her initial post, I doubt that by cooking at home more often, she's eventually going to enjoy doing so.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  There's something syllogistic about this whole argument. People don't like doing anything they don't do well, but getting to the point where you can do something really well is not a fun thing. Nobody likes making a mess, ruining good ingredients, disappointing yourself and your loved ones, wasting your precious time - but that not-fun process that No-body likes is the only way you get to be a good cook. Julia Child wrote that the first time she attempted to make a souffle she almost burned down the house. So, Janet doesn't cook because she doesn't like to cook. Well, I bet Beethoven didn't like practising scales on the piano at first either, but I'm sure you've heard the old joke: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Well, the only way you get to really enjoy doing something like cooking is to do it really well, and how do you get to do something really well? How do you get to Carnegie hall? Practice, practice, practice.

                                                  1. re: niki rothman

                                                    That would be a great argument if I wanted to be a good cook. I don't. I have no desire to be a good cook. I am, however, a very good eater. Beethoven practiced because he wanted to master the art of music.

                                              2. My husband and I spent an evening discussing this topic - can you tell we're both Chowhounds? He believes you can't be a true Chowhound if you don't cook: I think you can.

                                                It's the old "I don't know art but I know what I like" sort of situation. You might not know how to create the perfect souffle but you're able to lnow when a perfect souffle is presented to you.

                                                Mr. P. made a valid point that if you cook, you know what to look for, but still, you can appreciate food without the ability to cook it. It gives you a completely different perspective.

                                                1. Generally speaking, I only cook *with* other or *for* other people. Cooking by myself, for myself, just doesn't pay off. An exception would be to satisfy a craving, such as the time I just had to have really good haupia (and spent hours on research and shopping, making two batches to get the recipe right).