Yeah, yeah. It’s that time of year.

I have one resolution that I would really like to achieve in 2008. It probably sounds small and trifling to anyone else, but it’s a ridiculously big thing for me. I’d like to have my family round for a meal. No idea when. Just sometime in 2008.

I’ve been king (okay queen) of my little castle for almost 11 years and not once have I had family round for more than a cup of coffee.  Not even the aunt and uncle that live in the same town as me.

It’s getting to the point where it’s really, really, REALLY embarrassing.

It’s truly not that I don’t want them round or anything. It’s 100% a confidence thing. I actually got upset about it earlier on. Tears were shed and everything. Pathetic I know. 

I am not a very good cook at all. There are many stories that amuse or even produce tears of mirth when told the right way. (For example, once I managed annihilate a pot noodle.) Although I can see the funny side of such stories, they do nothing for the confidence stakes.

Trust me – when it comes to the kitchen, I’m as useless as this stile:

The slightly pointless stile

The rellies that live in the same town as me are great providers of fabulous, tasty, nourishing and (to me) exotic food. Lots of veggies out the garden, interesting herbs and spices, home baked bread etc. To a culinary loser like me, the thought of catering for them is hugely intimidating. I imagine lots of sniggers behind hands (or possibly to my face) were I to suggest such a ridiculous notion as having them round for a meal.

It’s not just family. It’s friends too. If they come round, we get a chinese takeaway. None of my friends is exactly into dinner parties or anything though. We tend to go out for meals rather than entertain each other. Or when we are entertaining each other, we don’t get any more adventurous than oven pizzas and things you can dip.

I obviously manage for just me but, although I try not to eat too much junk, it’s never anything terribly exciting and definitely not complicated. (Lots of jacket potatoes etc.) When it comes to even thinking about cooking for other people I come out in a cold sweat and feel completely inadequate. 

I’m not sure if the following are reasons or excuses. It depends on your viewpoint I suppose.

I don’t enjoy cooking  – I never have. I was never one of those kids who used to pester mum to bake cakes together or anything. It probably doesn’t help that my mum wasn’t a particularly adventurous cook herself. I never even ate rice or pasta until I went to university. I kid you not.

I’m also a bit fussy (which may be something my mum unintentionally fostered in me). I’m not as fussy as I was as a kid, but I still can’t bring myself to eat fish or seafood. To me, the thought is like eating a slug out of the garden.

As well as my general complete lack of experience of cooking something ‘special’ (or ordinary) for other people, I haven’t a clue about sizes of portions or anything which adds to the whole stress of the thing. It would be pointless attempting to judge by my own appetite. I weigh about about 7 and a half stone (I am only 5ft and 1/2 inch though!) and have had eating issues in the past when some sort of depression caused me to drop to just under 6 stone.

On the whole, cookery programmes don’t interest me. Delia Smith may as well be speaking a foreign language, and every time Nigella is on I end up wanting to slap her. There may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel though – Saturday Morning Kitchen on BBC1. That’s actually okay. I need to start paying more attention to it though. I normally watch, think “mmm tasty”, then instantly forget what they did.

I’ve had the idea of perhaps starting by having a go at baking the odd cake or two. If I produce something edible, I can take it around to said aunt and uncle for sampling, and maybe gradually move onto something more challenging.

Before I embark on this “adventure” I think I need to get one or two bits of “equipment”. Most importantly, I need a radio in the kitchen (I like to get my priorities straight). This will increase the likelihood of me actually staying in the kitchen long enough to produce something that may or may not pass as edible. I also need some kitchen scales, and possibly a mixing bowl or two.

While I’m out acquiring these essentials, if anyone has any ideas or can recommend a cook-book that may be good for my level of competence (i.e. none) I’d be very interested to hear.

Please help. I have to get past this pitiful and woeful embarrassment.


8 Responses to “Resolution”

  1. 1 uphilldowndale December 29, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I’ve been reduced to tears on more than one occasion, when I first started cooking for family and friends, my mum never encouraged me to cook as a kid ( because she had to) and I had never eaten a parsnip or a red pepper till I was in my twenties, If I were to recommend a book it would be ‘Real Fast Food’ by Nigel Slater, ‘ready-to-eat recipes in 30 minutes’ in fact his writing is pretty much ‘blog style’ he even tells you what tastes best when drunk, nor are the recipes complicated, and it outlines what to have in the store cupboard, so you are never ‘stuck’ for something to eat. I found that cooking for me was about giving it time and space to develop, you probably do this with photography, but maybe food is a bit more complex for you. If you fed your self on these recipes you would become confident, then all you have to do is increase the quantity according to you guests, and remember your friends/ family have come to see you not your food.
    Whilst I am here, can I introduce you to some one? I think you will like his photos. they are as good as his writing

  2. 2 Thursday December 29, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    River Cafe Easy – both books are pretty good. I wholeheartedly sympathise, I have an absolute frozen fear of cooking for other people but would urge you to try and build up your own confidence by cooking a few dishes for yourself. Do them again and again until you know them really well and know they ‘work. In terms of utensils, etc., don’t be afraid to ask your friends/family what they use mostly in the kitchen.

    I agree – get a radio, I’m sure you’ll find it makes a difference.

  3. 3 Jen December 29, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Ooh, yes, Nigel Slater is very good. I wonder if cooking seems scary because we think we ‘should’ be good at it? I still have palpitations when I give a dinner party (I actually got so drunk during the preparations due to nerves that it had to be cancelled as I was unconscious on the bed!).

    I would start with a pasta bake – you can serve it with a fab salad in a big bowl which even you wouldn’t burn 😉

    I love that it’s snowing on your blog. Who needs food when it’s snowing, eh?

  4. 4 sal December 29, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    I’d also go with the Nigel Slater recommendation – the recipes are very clear and straightforward, the only drawback is that there are no photos. Another that might suit you is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Famiy Cookbook – its recipes that are intended for getting kids into cookery, so the food is unfussy and the recipes are very clear, and there are photos. The of course there are the Delia books – Complete Cookery Course is perhaps a bit of a hefty tome for you, but Cooking for One is good, and the seasonal books are good. And I’ve always found Delia’s recipes to be utterly reliable.

    Definitely get a radio in the kitchen.

    And if you need a hand choosing culinary equipment, let me know! I’d love to kit out a kitchen from scratch!

  5. 5 uphilldowndale December 29, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    How about taking some ‘baby steps’ by inviting them to ‘a bit of lunch’ or ‘tea’ then you could just make a sandwich or two, and a cake or biscuits, that you could make ages in advance and freeze; so as little ‘performance pressure’ on you as possible on the day and your guests know what to expect.
    I think there are some good cook books aimed at ‘students’ as well, that assume little or previous knowledge of cooking.

  6. 6 vonne December 30, 2007 at 3:25 am

    I have several cook books that I enjoy, but they’re American and I’m afraid the measurements will be all wrong for you. But I did want to tell you that I never cooked in the kitchen with my mom either and I had the same relationship with my friends as you. As for feeding myself, it was salads, potatoes, etc. Then I got married and HAD to start cooking meals. I stumbled along learning things from books, then I just broke down one day and signed up for a cooking class. Just a basic cooking class. It was the best thing I ever did. I’ve always been the type to take classes for things I want to learn about, so why not cooking? It was just what I needed to get me started. Go ahead, jump in! You won’t regret it. 🙂

  7. 7 nezza December 30, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you all for your words of encouragement and suggestions. I really appreciate them all. *sends you all a hug* (That includes you Annabelle!)

    I went to Waterstones today armed with a voucher looking for Nigel Slater and River Cafe Easy, but alas they were hiding, so I’ll have to make a return visit.

    I have picked out the radio I want though – although they’ve temporarily run out at the moment, so I couldn’t bring one home. (I told you I had my priorities straight LOL.)

    UHDD – thank you for introducing me to traumaqueen. Puts my own traumas into perspective! And yes – great photos.

    Thursday – good suggestion. It will be good for my diet generally to extend a little bit too!

    Jen – you’re spot on. That’s part of the ‘intimidation’ I mentioned. It’s a hard act to follow.

    Sal – I challenge you to find me a good pair kitchen of scales. 🙂 I did have some good ones, but I think my ex procurred them.

    Vonne – I have certainly thought about taking a class. It’s a good idea, and I’m still thinking about it, but unfortunately I’m booked up for two evening courses after the new year already (photography and web design) so I don’t have time at the moment. But I’ll definitely keep that on the back burner (pardon the pun).

    Thanks again everyone.

  8. 8 sal December 30, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Come up here for a weekend, and I’ll take you to Barnitt’s of York. As far as kitchen gear is concerned, if they don’t stock it, it probably hasn’t been invented yet. And they have an excellent selection of kitchen scales.

    Oh, the other thing that probably goes without saying – flip through all the cookbooks that have been suggested before you buy, to make sure you like the style of writing, and the sort of recipes they contain. Nothing worse than a book you get home then realise is no use to you.

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