Cooking For The Adult Woman Who Hates To Cook

by Alexandra Molotkow


The last time I tried to cook a proper meal — eggplant parmesan, the simplest possible recipe, for two — I bought extravagant sea salt, but forgot to buy tomato sauce. I decided to wing it, mashing full tomatoes into a watery sludge, and the result was surprisingly tasty, but only because of the cheese, which I could have melted over toast in five minutes. The dish took three hours to prepare, and produced two sinks of dishes plus indigestion, which nearly defeated its purpose.

When I was younger, I took pride in not being able to cook. My ideals of adulthood were defined in negative: I didn’t want to be too “conventional” or too “womany,” so I rejected womany things and embraced my own mess, which gets old rapidly. Of course, cooking is a life skill; there’s nothing gendered about sustaining yourself, or keeping your home in order, but I was right about one thing: I can’t cook.

More accurately, I’ve never liked cooking, and what I’ve learned in 29 years of not liking to cook is that those who hate cooking shouldn’t do it, just as those who hate driving shouldn’t drive. You will waste money on ingredients you don’t know how to use, and hours of your life on a mess you’ll eat regardless because by now you’re starving.

I don’t cook, but I love food, and one of my greatest grownup loves is the grocery store (there is a huge, gleaming supermarket I visit sometimes in my dreams, stocked with reliable-looking produce). The memories most native to my childhood are of Saturdays with my parents at the St. Lawrence Market, which seemed stocked for every possible version of the week to come. The best form of people-watching is eyeing strangers’ items in the checkout line, and for some reason I riff best with myself about fruit.

I never enjoy my own company as much as when I’m grocery shopping. Doing my weekly rounds is a way of knowing, and meeting my own needs. I’m not too strict in my daily routine — I like to at least feel as though the next day could be different from the last — but I know what I like for breakfast, and I know what I like for a snack. Buying groceries is the simplest way to make myself happy, and food is the most reliable way to parse my week.

The fact that I don’t cook means I’m not thinking about the dish; I’m thinking about the day, and how to sneak as much joy into it as possible. I know what I need to buy and what I shouldn’t, but I leave open the possibility that some new and beguiling snack or kitchen accessory could revolutionize my work week, and sometimes it does, because most days are the sum of many small stresses and reliefs. There is nothing like having paper towel after two weeks of not.

It’s possible to live and eat well without culinary gifts. I believe that not cooking is a skill, involving budgeting, mapping, self-knowledge and a sense of “the good in life.” So, without further anything, a few recipes that are not recipes at all:

 -1 pack ramen noodles (I prefer Koyo Garlic Pepper, or Lotus Foods’ “Forbidden Rice”)
 -1 bowl leafy greens (spinach and arugula work nicely)
 -I dunno, just a bunch of broccoli
 -Tofu (either pre-seasoned or fried up in sesame oil with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce)
 -1/2 avocado

Wash the vegetables. Boil the ramen noodles. Throw the vegetables into the ramen noodles. Add tofu. Throw a few avocado slices in there. Extra healthy if you park your laptop on the refrigerator and dance around during preparation.

 -1 ball mozzarella
 -1 tomato (or several cherry tomatoes)
 -Fresh basil
 -Pesto (optional, but I highly recommend Le Grand 4 Nuts and Cheese)
 -A bag of salt
 -1 tortilla

Cut up the tomato. Cut up the mozzarella. Dip your finger into a bag of salt and rub it onto the mozzarella. Wash the basil. Put it all on a tortilla with pesto and either roll the whole thing, or rip it into strips and carefully “design” each mouthful because you’re classy af.

 -Hummus (I recommend Sunflower Kitchen roasted garlic)
 -Vegetables (you pick ’em, but definitely cauliflower)

Get the hummus out of the fridge. Put it on your desk. Arrange a plate with vegetables and crackers. Dip them in the hummus (individually).

 -Tomato soup (I like Amy’s Cream of Tomato, but it’s insanely expensive; Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato is delicious but maybe a little more sugary, and it features a terrifying sprout-thing on its box)
 -Star-shaped pastina
 -Cheese bread

Boil the pastina until it’s nice and plump and bountiful. Pour in the soup. Heat until hot. Stir in chunks of halloumi for Ultimate Salt. Cut up an avocado to place on top, if desired. Highly effective comfort food for the winter months; serve with wine, because the best grownup things are kid things with booze.