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I can't cook!

(I'm not talking about me. I can cook quite well, thank you.)

I'm wondering what you think about people who say "I can't cook!" or "I can't even boil water!" blah blah, whine, whine.

Personally, it drives me nuts. You may choose not to cook, or not enjoy cooking, or perhaps you can't cook well, but I would argue that certain handicaps aside, anyone can cook. For instance, I do not like to bake, I only bake when I feel it's absolutely necessary (ie, some sort of occasion, or to use up some ingredients), and I don't think that baking is my strong suit in the kitchen. But I wouldn't say that I CAN'T bake.

Even if you can't come up with your own things to cook, can't anyone follow a recipe if they want to?

Please note, I am not asking about people who say they are "too busy to cook", that's another topic.

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  1. Actually, my sister can't cook. It is like she has a block against it. She explodes hard-boiled eggs, makes meat that tastes like sawdust no matter what she does to it or how rare she tries to make it. I walk her through recipes, she does fine with them then, but something about the pressure of all her past failures raises its ugly head and ruins meals she tries to make alone.
    Much like I would say that I can't play softball. No matter how slowly I get walked through things, the minute I am actually at bat or with a ball coming towards my glove, my history of inability seizes me and I miss it every time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Meredith

      I feel the same way Cookinggirl does whenever I see one of the "I can't cook. Pleas help" posts. Your sister knows how to cook, if she were left alone in the house full of raw ingredients in the snowstorm, she'd probably survive. The question if she CAN cook (delicious meals) is a different story. But it's like old women and VCRs, if they can give enough thought to it, they can program them, but since they have their kids to do it for them, why bother?

      1. re: welle

        >>> perhaps you can't cook well, but ... anyone can cook <<<

        So are we just annoyed about semantics here. If people added the word 'well' to the sentence it would stop annoying you. Ok, I can't cook well.

        That's what I think most people mean when they say they can't cook.

        >>> Even if you can't come up with your own things to cook, can't anyone follow a recipe if they want to? <<<

        No.

        There's sheet music. There's a piano. You have eyes and fingers. Can everyone play the piano ... no.

        No different than a recipe.

        Yes, there are a few things I can cook, one or two I am brilliant at. But 95 percent of the time it turns out like garbage no matter how closely I follow the recipe.

        Let me tell you about ten or more times that I tried to make a Martha Stewart recipe for mashed potatoes and scalded the milk each time, burned the potatoes and finally ruined a pot and gave up. I followed that #@#) recipe religiously.

        Or the tuti fruti that I tried to make five years in a row ... fruit ... alcohol ... let sit on a counter ... and each year wound up throwing it out in October.

        Yes some of it has to do with patience. If you don't enjoy something you don't want to put the effort into it. Most people could probably bang out a recognizable, if hard-to-listen to song on the piano if they really put a lot of time and effort into it. I would not call them pianists.

        I guess what annoys ME is people insisting others can cook. Why is that? I'm not asking you to cook for me or eat my cooking ... although if I did make you eat it you might also come to the conclusion that I can't cook ... well.

        1. re: rworange

          I very much agree with your entire post. What also gets me are the cooks who believe everyone should enjoy cooking, keep trying, etc. I get very frustrated spending $$$ on quality ingredients to get below average results and then told I need to try again. In this day and age with markets having veyr good prepared foods, take out being inexpensive and many other options, I don't need to cook and prefer not to if/when possible.

          1. re: rworange

            I agree with what you say, although I think most of us can learn to cook better...that said, in answer to the question about why can't folks just follow a recipe, part of the answer is that many recipes are *extremely* poorly written, and you have to already know how to cook well to decipher them!

      2. Every time someone I know claims they are unable to cook well I suggest they do not give up, they try to prepare their favorite dish one more time with the temperature on the stove/oven at about half of what they would use in the past. Obviously not a cure all but it makes a HUGE world of difference and prevents them giving up on cooking all together. For whatever reason people seem to think you can substitute time for heat and still ake a dish taste decent.

        1. In the past, I have claimed that I couldn't cook. Actually, I can. But, I'm not an especially good cook or experienced cook. The repertoire of recipes I feel confident cooking is pretty small (for a chowhound.) I don't have the patience for it.

          Because I don't cook as often as I probably ought to, I don't have a feel for things. People who cook a lot and are good at it know their instruments and understand the properties of their ingredients. They know what "medium heat" means without guessing. They know when something is going awry and how to respond.

          I'm the kind of person who doubles a recipe, but then slips up and forgets to put twice the amount of ______ in and doesn't notice. A more skilled cook would look at what they've assembled and think, "Hey, that looks too watery/gooey/sticky/stiff/etc., I must have forgotten to double the ______" and then correct themselves. I don't notice and don't know how to correct a situation gone wrong.

          Also, I think good/experienced cooks know how to substitute ingredients. You know when you're humming along and realize you're out of something? A good cook knows how to make the most out of what they do have. Me? I'm completely dead in the water.

          ~TDQ

          4 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            None of this means you can't cook, you just need more experience.

            I have no problem with people saying they can't cook, it usually means they don't care about it. That's fine with me, as long as they understand I'm not going to cook for them without some quid pro quo.

            1. re: cheryl_h

              With certain friends (and family), I'd rather do the cooking than expect "quid pro quo".

              1. re: OCAnn

                Agreed! I didn't mean I expected them to cook for me, but to do something in return. Too many people, including the menfolk in my family, think it's women's work, or "she likes to cook" so expect to be served all the time.

                1. re: cheryl_h

                  So true. I'm so much happier cooking for the person who asks "Do you need anything?" than the person who just arrives (even if I say "No, thanks, I don't" and no one ends up bringing anything). It's the thought that counts.

                  Sometimes my friends who never cook bring me random things like a bottle of olive oil or a sack of sugar. Best presents ever!

                  As for the "just not trying" crowd, my friend caught her roommate cooking with the gas light clicking away on the stove. She showed her how to turn it "down" to high to make the sound go away, only to come home three days later to find the gal doing the exact same thing. That has nothing to do with cooking. It's just plain...well, you know.

          2. Oh, I completely agree with you, which is why I don't say "I can't cook" anymore. But, saying "I can't cook" was my shorthand for saying what I said above. :)

            ~TDQ

            1. It's like driving. There are bad drivers, overzealous drivers, bad drivers who think they drive well, drivers who actually shouldn't drive, etc. Just like cooking.

              You can say, "can't anyone follow a recipe if they want to?" That's like saying, "can't you follow the DMV handbook?"

              It's like any skill: experience doesn't always make someone better at something. And some people just can't.

              2 Replies
              1. re: OCAnn

                I can't drive either.

                I eat well! I'm a great eater!

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  LOL. That was funny.

                  My best friend is an admitted "can't" cook. She's not whining, nor complaining. This Executive Director of a non-profit really can't cook. I don't find why it should drive me nuts; but rather, it's an excuse for us to go out, relax and find new restaurants or go to old favourites.