First, you are not alone. If you think that you’re a glitch to the feminine species who seem to be equipped with natural skills in whipping up food that tastes good, I repeat you are not alone.
Second, there’s actually hope for you. Society seems to align us into a stereotype that cooking should be innate in a woman, but trust me cooking maybe a talent for some. But sometimes, it’s a skill to be learned.
I know, because I am one of those girls.
It all started with the dislike of the wet market. I was young and maarte, (there’s no other word that more accurate than this) whenever Nanay would ask me to accompany her in the market I would just end up making faces because this wet mud never stops getting to my slippers, and eventually my feet. One of my consistent pet peeve is squishy feet. After a few more tries, we both got the idea that the situation made me an irritated person, so mother ended up with kuya for company. If my memory serves me right, I know it worked pretty well because he would always come home with a live little fish or shrimp to play with (sorry Finding Nemo fans, but that’s the harsh reality we all have to deal with). While I was left alone with my books, dolls, or whatever I may fancy doing during that time.
Eventually, Kuya was the one trained to do the cooking. It was like the natural flow of activities: go to the market, clean the fishes, sort the vegetables, and then cook for lunch. On the other hand, weekends meant that I need to finish my school works. I became the resident geek who prioritize her studies, while my brother took the role of the cook.
It was by the book learning from me; once Tiya asked me to take charge in cooking rice. Ha! A cooking assignment! I can do this! I can’t remember how old I was back then, and I also can’t remember the next step after the rice has been washed. Should I put water in it or not? I haven’t read anything about rice before. I debated for 5 minutes whether to put water or not. Well, there’s no water in it whenever we eat rice. So I guess, it doesn’t need any.
Apparently, I wasn’t gifted with enough common sense to know that it needs water to boil and to be cooked. A few minutes later a weird smell rafted through the house. The rice wasn’t saved from being burnt and I stayed away from the kitchen. Up to this day, it was still one of my classic childhood stories.
Years later the only thing I became confident in cooking were pizza rolls and hotdogs. The egg was still a mystery because it always end up scrambled (can’t help it if it’s too attached to the frying pan you know).
When I was in college, I made a strawberry panna cotta. I saw a recipe on a magazine and decided to give it a try. I followed it step by step but it seems that I end up putting too many gelatin leaves. Lo and behold, it wasn’t even edible! Hahaha! I can laugh at it now, yet that day I felt like the recipe betrayed me. Frustrated even that I spent two-days-worth of allowance for that.
There was also a time when Hong Kong style noodle was one of my favorite foods, so I tried making my own. I fried the pancit canton and came to realize that it actually takes a different noodle for it to be achieved. I resumed at just buying at my favorite kiosk in the LRT station.
From then on, I started calling the act as “experiment” and not cooking. At least if I fail, it wouldn’t be so bad since it was meant to be an experiment anyway. Experiments can’t always end well.
So, you might wonder why I am telling all these. It’s because lately there have been some developments in the Department of Kitchen Experiments. I am now learning how to cook – just a little, nothing extravagant. If I open a restaurant now the menu would be comprised of sautéed vegetables, adobong sitaw, and baked macaroni. Thanks to the rice cooker, I can now be tasked with the sinaing, and thanks to an easier recipe I was able to make an edible panna cotta (I almost cried when I found out that it can be eaten).
I came up with this principle that if I really really really love eating it, I should learn how to cook it. And that’s a real challenge since I do love to eat (if that isn’t obvious yet). Right now, I am acquainting myself with different pasta and fried chicken recipes. These thoughts actually came to mind when I finished eating the spicy Buffalo wings I made for launch. Yes, it’s a proud moment for me because I can finally cook edible food!
To the girls who don’t know how to cook but who wants to learn, yes it is possible. You may start from scratch – or should I say burnt? – And might even surprise yourself that it can end up delicious after all. Go for the simple recipes first, like the Buzzfeed ones that unexpectedly shows up in your feed, or maybe ask your brother/mother/sister/whomever better than you.
If your family shies away from being the taste-testers, go bring it out to your friend or colleagues (just make sure their hungry so it would taste yummy. Haha! Kidding. Or maybe not). Do not merely eat, but familiarize yourself with the flavors that food can bring.
You might not end up a chef, but it is equally satisfying to cook something good for yourself. Or maybe someday, you can gather the people you love the most and say:
Come one, come all, a feast has been prepared for you all.
P.S. And if you need an extra push go watch Ratatouille or A Hundred Foot Journey. It has served as a foolproof cooking inspiration for me.