“Cooking Ambivalence”

These two titles express the ambivalence that I often have about cooking. These books were in my mother’s estate, so I know that she had the same ambivalence, though she more often embraced Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook Book, finding much less  joy in cooking. And who could blame her, expected to feed her family every day, year in year out. There were no fast food places, no Uber Eats, no Grub Hub to bring food to the house. When we went out to eat, probably twice a year, we went for Chinese food. The first pizza place didn’t even open until I was in seventh grade. No food was “convenient,” though my mother was thrilled about frozen vegetables, a relatively newly available item.

I learned to bake as a child, totally self taught from her copy of The Joy of Cooking. Baking had precise measurements and instructions, and they were easy to follow. Baking wasn’t necessary and I never felt any pressure do it. Baking rewarded me since everyone in the family was glad to have the cookies, cakes, and muffins I created. I went on and learned to make candy using the same book. Camp Fire Girls encouraged my love of baking and I also learned some candy making techniques from our leader. But I never cooked dinners. And baking, however delightful, does not a dinner make.

My late sister unapologetically never cooked. She had no ambivalence about that stance. She had, perhaps knowingly, married a man who did all the cooking! I, on the other hand, emerged into adulthood with the same ambivalence of my mother, but with many more choices available as time went on. I actually love cooking once I get started, but I still carry the vestige of that expectation to have dinner on the table every night. This expectation is mine alone, and is not shared by my husband. In fact, he is pleased whenever I cook and is content to fix himself something if I don’t.

Should I cook, should we go out, should we order in, should I open a can of soup? My sister clearly chose a simpler path, never having to quiz herself daily. I continue to deal with my ambivalence. Clearly you can take the child out of the 1950’s, but you can’t take the 1950’s out of the child!

36 thoughts on ““Cooking Ambivalence”

  1. Oh,what a shame! My mother taught her girls to cook, and I still do because I like to, I just keep it simpler these days, go out sometimes, and cheat with the occasional good quality ready meal…..


  2. My mom did the best she could while raising 5 kids mostly alone and working full time. As we got older we helped with the weekday meals while she continued to make Sunday dinner. Everything from scratch in those days. Later she got really creative hunting mushrooms, picking clams and oysters, making jams and canning.

    I am somewhat of a reluctant cook. I cook 3 – 4 nights a week, and we have leftovers or go out the other days. I like to bake occasionally, mainly cookies and breads. I do it because it tastes good and it’s better for you, not because I enjoy doing it. So I guess that makes me ambivalent too!


  3. I do 99% of the cooking in our house. My wife’s 1% is if she prepares herself something when I am out, or unwell. I still try to cook from scratch at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 I am happy to heat up a quality prepared meal bought from the supermarket, and add some vegetables.
    The one thing I never do is baking. That’s my ‘bridge too far’.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  4. However, the feeling of success advert successful baking is much, much more than with other firms of cooking. There is so much that can go awry. Frying, stewing, roasting they are all pretty straight forward but baking – that’s hardly a piece of cake.


  5. Your husband sounds like me—no expectations, but definite appreciation. Our arrangement is whoever cooks relaxes while the other one does the dishes.


  6. When asked about cooking, my grandmother would say “if you can read you can cook”. As a young woman she taught in a small one room school in Skagit valley Washington. Raising her large family during the depression, food and food preparation was a big deal. That mentality has found its way to our home. Cooking is a way to demonstrate your creativity and independence. Even guests. We recently had a guest from Kenya. We all delighted in a traditional African meal she prepared for us.


  7. My mother was an amazing cook, but alas I didn’t pick up the skill from here. It’s very fortunate that I have the benefit of microwave ovens, food delivery services and dozens of restaurants within short driving distance. LOL


  8. I used to cook to feed my family. I’m a country style cook. I can’t say I have always enjoyed cooking rather just a chore that had to be accomplished.
    BUT now I cook because I have to as having Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, no sugar or high carbs it is a daily challenge.
    I don’t have any precooked or processed foods as I need to use the raw ingredients that I know I can use safely without any hidden nasties.
    Takeaway isn’t an option & eating out is very rare, too many experiences of gluten contamination which have caused me to be so very ill.
    I understand your ambivalence!
    Bless you,


  9. Ah! I can relate to this post so much, I also love cooking once I get started but have a great resistance to said starting. I don’t have as much conscious reasoning around the resistance as you do, but I suspect it is ancestral as it is such a strong feeling. I experience intense anxiety and overwhelm when I think of cooking, even choosing what to cook, as well as the money “wasted” if it doesn’t turn out well. For this time and age, there is no reason for me to think this way–it almost seems related to one or many of my peeps being in a famine where cooking was luxurious, a life/death matter. Thanks for putting your words out there!


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