Let me start off by saying that it’s not my mother’s fault that I didn’t know how to cook. She tried. But I didn’t want to learn. I hated cooking. Before I left for college, she said, “Shayla. Now’s your last chance to learn to cook.”
“Oh, but Mom,” I smiled slyly. “This is the last time ever that I’ll get to have someone else cook for me. For the rest of my life, I’ll have to cook. Let me just enjoy this.”
Off to college I went. And I was blessed with roommates who shared their home-cooked food with me.
“Surely, on your mission you’ll learn how to cook,” mused my mom.
Off on my mission I went. And I was blessed with companions who were always willing to cook for me or would kick me out of the kitchen because I was in the way. I was even fortunate enough to have one companion who was a professional chef! You see, Heavenly Father had good humor.
So there I was, 23-years old, and I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen unless it involved tortillas, cheese, and salsa OR bread, lunchmeat, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. (My friends say this doesn’t count as cooking…) I decided it was finally time for me to learn something. So I cooked over the summer with a friend every Tuesday, and I did learn somethings, important things. But cooking 6 times doesn’t amount to talent. And it was just then that I met my husband.
Off and married I went. He worked until late, and I was still going to school. So amidst homework, it fell upon me to do the cooking…and I didn’t know what to do. So naturally, I converted him to my gourmet quesadillas, and I married well because he craved another one the next day. Ah yeah! But soon, very soon, quesadillas lost their luster.
But to my luck, my husband was a great cook. He just didn’t have the time because he was working so much. I remember, once, I had decided to surprise him with one of the meals I had learned to cook that summer with my friend: coconut curry chicken. In my cookbook, I had made notes, so I knew exactly what to do. Now, I don’t know why this happens, but it does, and it’s awful, but I followed the recipe and the notes, and it turned out TERRIBLE. It just tasted like coconuts. Gina.
Andrew came home. I just looked at him and begged, “Fix it.” And he did. Just a little touch from his magic cooking hands and voila!
Long story short, I scraped my way through cooking for the first couple of months of marriage. And then we moved. And then we experienced some really challenging financial times, and the budget took some serious cuts. After paying bills, little was left over for food. Challenging times call for drastic measures, right? Here was my drastic: not only was it as real a time as ever for me to learn to cook, but I was going to need to learn to cook from scratch. It was the cheapest way to go.
DAUNTING! is the only way to describe it.
I scrambled. I opened up the cookbooks. All I know is this: cookbooks are just about worthless when you’re low on funds. Drop kick them across the yard. And then the freeway. Any meal costs between 20-40 dollars to make, which was the exact type of meal I couldn’t afford, and! they have you buy spices and ingredients that you’ll use once in your life or you can only buy on the Black Market or from Guam. “Just substitute or do without” is what the experts say. Listen experts, people who don’t know how to cook have absolutely NO idea how to do that. How are we supposed to know what we can substitute with or what is ok to just ix-nay? Let me repeat: We. Don’t. Know. How. To. Cook.
However, I did have one cookbook, a wedding gift, that had some from-scratch recipes, which was a saving grace. So there I started.
Basically, my life was this: I hated food. I dreaded dinner time most of all. But I was pregnant, so not eating really wasn’t an option. And I had a husband who was fighting with horses all day (like seriously, all day. Coming home between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm was a usual.), so again, not eating really wasn’t an option. I hated cooking with a greater passion than ever before.
Oh, and to add to it, I was learning to cook with no other meats than deer and elk that Andrew hunted. So when I would ask friends for recipes, they would all send me recipes for chicken dishes. Drop kick everything!
I prayed and prayed for Heavenly Father to bless me with someone in my life that could teach me how to cook. But we were in a new area and I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know how to ask for help. (Ok, maybe I just didn’t want to bother people.)
But, the Lord did teach me how to cook. I can’t emphasize enough how much I prayed and relied on Him. I had no choice but to just try things. So I did. And Pinterest became my best friend. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know what was possible to make with what we had left in our pantry. So I’d ask for help from Heavenly Father, and He’d help me find something. The coolest part was I would be cooking something up, and I would get subtle ideas, and I would just try them, and they’d work out. So I just started trusting my promptings and instincts in the kitchen (because there was a little bit of both flying around). And there are still times that Andrew will come home, and I’ll say, “Fix it.” But overall, after about a year, I don’t love cooking yet, but I can do it. And I can do it with very little. And even better, we eat really pretty good.
So this next round of posts is about the secret world of cooking that I tapped into for those of us who don’t live in Guam and don’t even know where to find the Black Market.