Why I Should Not Cook

I cooked last night. I made spaghetti bolognaise – or tried to. You see, while I regard myself as not entirely unskilled in the kitchen (I cooked for myself regularly last year, and lived to talk about it) I am rather out of practice. The last time I made food (a proper meal, not cereal or toast) was probably more than a month ago – a rather fail meal consisting of chicken, mushrooms and rice. Half of it is still sitting in a Tupperware at the bottom of my freezer, waiting for the mythical day when I will be starving to death with no food in the house (not even that last packet of 2 minute noodles) and no money in my wallet (not even R8,50 for a chicken burger at McDonald’s down the road).

The problem, as I see it, began with how I learnt to cook in the first place: for eight people. (Yes, my household is that big.) So I naturally always cook way more food than what’s needed. The facts that 1) I hate waste and 2) grocery stores don’t sell produce in single servings really don’t help. Added to this, I only need food for three meals a week. On Wednesdays we work late and so we get a free meal (Nando’s, Woolies, or coffeeshop food). Friday to Sunday I’m at home, eating their food. What are families for? So it’s really only Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I need to worry about. Sometimes I’ll do fish: one hake fillet in the oven, baby potatoes and frozen veg cooking on the stove. Super easy! But then I am left with the problem of the two remaining days. What to do…

For the last few weeks I have been dining à la Woolies. One packet of soup plus two wholewheat rolls equals two delicious meals for under R40. Fantastique, as the French say. Well, actually they don’t. They’d say “Formidable!” which is French for ‘fantastic’. But I digress.

This week I decided, somewhat unsurprisingly, that I was sick of soup and would therefore cook something with substance: namely, spaghetti bolognaise. Also unsurprisingly, it was not a great success. Transcript of events below…

Food, glorious food... Not really.

In Pick n Pay: Look how delicious everything is… Oh, and expensive. Hm. Oh well, I’m sure I’m saving money by cooking for myself. That’s what everyone says!

At home, chopping chopping chopping: I’m sure I have too much food here. Better cook it all anyway so it doesn’t go off.

Onions in, mince in. Then the green peppers. Damn, I should have put the peppers in with the onions. Too late now.

Arg, hate this frying pan. It’s so small! Half the onions go flying off the side. The wooden spoon balances precariously on the counter, threatening to roll off and hit our less-than-clean floor at any minute.

Baby corn in. Now to open the tin of tomato puree. Spy solid-looking can-opener in the drawer. Thank goodness it’s decent! Thought of buying one, but didn’t.

Ten minutes later, still struggling to open the tin. End up puncturing a series of holes around the rim, attempting to pry them open with an even more decrepit can-opener, and then laboriously shaking the contents out of the holes into the pan. Hmph. THIS is why I don’t cook!

Add mushrooms, season and simmer. Lid too small for the pan. Put spaghetti in; not enough water. Fill the kettle again…

Eventually all looks ready. I serve a bowl for myself, struggling to catch the spaghetti on my un-spaghetti-friendly spoon. A mushroom and some pasta sauce hit the deck in the process. By this time I’m so exhausted by the whole drama, I can barely touch my food. Plus it tastes kinda like frying pan. I’m sure it’s not supposed to. AND my hands smell like onion, and will for days to come, not matter how often I wash them and how much handcream I apply.

Now I have supper leftovers to add to the enormous mound of food I have created – and it will probably all end up with the chicken and rice at the bottom of my freezer.

See you next week, Woolies!


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