Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Don't Cook

Apples & sausages snack, created August 4th
I Don't Cook.

For years, this was my motto. I could've substituted, Don't Tread On Me. That's how fiercely I held these three little words. When someone dared suggest I embrace the domestic, I Don't Cook served as a trusty shield.

Don't get me wrong -- I always loved to eat. I just expected others to cook for me, to take me to restaurants, to feed me. Otherwise, I wouldn't pay much attention to eating. Sometimes I'd forget to eat. Other times I'd gorge. I'd fantasize about throwing fabulous dinner parties -- If/When I had a house, If/When I had a partner, If/When I had money, If/When...

The truth was -- I didn't know how to feed myself.

The deeper truth was -- I had no idea how to self-nourish.

Then, on June 10th, 2010, my longtime friend Anastasia invited me to join her in a private cooking class she'd won at a school auction. The teacher was Chef Maili Halme Brocke [Maili's awesome blog], a renowned celebrity chef and high-end caterer with her own food productions company.
Chef Maili Halme Brocke cutting cherries
It was summer. I had a free night. Eat a good meal, hang out with my fun friend, drink wine. Why not?

I never expected anything more. Certainly not a watershed experience.

Then I met Maili.
Lightning-fast Chef Maili in the kitchen
I watched in wonder as this attractive blond woman shot around the kitchen like someone pumped to the gills on meth. But she was naturally high on the sheen of imported peaches, the leafy bustle of fresh parsley, the aroma of cut lemon. We ate as she cooked and fell quickly under her gastronomic spell. What Maili wrought in the kitchen was clearly art, fueled by love. How she moved in the kitchen was the joyous dance of an artist in her element. And, she wanted to share her passion. Never missing a culinary beat, she cheerfully answered question upon question posed by two sworn non-cooks:

How do you hold a knife?
How do you keep things from rolling off a cutting board?
How do you heat a pan?
Why does burnt garlic ruin a dish?
How can you tell when garlic is done?
How do you cut an onion?
How do you keep parsley fresh?
What is that? (A food processor).
I'm afraid of handling chicken flesh. Isn't it easy to get bacteria?

How do you boil water?

Maili paused. The rhythmic sound of knife chopping, the cascading green leaves, the rapid blur of Maili in her crisp white apron -- all stopped. She pressed her hands on the cutting board and gazed at me, surprise creasing her brow.

Didn't your mother teach you anything?

This blog will answer that question and many more. It will follow the adventures of an amateur non-cook newly inspired to cook and feed people. We'll post silly portraits of food, talk kitchen mishaps and triumphs, and celebrate the alchemy of cooking.

My previous book is LOVE JUNKIE:  A MEMOIR (Bloomsbury). This book came out first in hardcover, then in paperback, and is now available on Kindle. It opened with the realization something was very wrong with me. The book details the exploration of my own love/sex addiction and its childhood roots. LJ traced a raw emotional journey.

Perhaps THE ART OF BOILING WATER is the follow-up memoir. The one that illuminates the shadow side of a recovering love and sex addict. In my case, the shadow just might be sunny. What I repressed in those years of self-harm, insatiability and destructive relationships was maybe a happier, simpler self. One who can find joy in the act of cutting an onion or patting a ball of pastry dough. One who thrills to cooking and feeding others, to the pleasure of good conversation and company, and to the possibilities of a tiny kitchen with an old electric stove.  One who perhaps will find new balance and meaning in the art of boiling water.

In quick posts to follow, I'll capture daily adventures in cooking and catch up on previous ones. I'll include recipes and links as relevant. I hope you'll join me on this journey, and that perhaps you, too, will be inspired.

If I can cook, anyone can.


[Maili's Apples & Sausages recipe, pictured at head of post]


  1. It will be a beautiful journey - looking forward to it.

  2. So wonderful Rachel. Yes, cooking can save one's soul for sure.

  3. Hey! Comments on the newborn blog! Amelia, I'm honored by your words, and encouraged. Bett, spot on. It does feel like it can save one's soul. Thank you both so much.

  4. Rachel, I'm loving this. I feel like you're writing straight from my non-cooking life. These lines really got to me--such honesty: "I just expected others to cook for me, to take me to restaurants, to feed me. Otherwise, I wouldn't pay much attention to eating. Sometimes I'd forget to eat. Other times I'd gorge." Wonderful blog.

  5. Well, Dylan. That is high praise indeed coming from someone of your talent and taste. I'm heartened! I love that the blog is resonating with your non-cooking life and self. I really do want to reach people who're non-cooks. Deep gratitude for your read, and for your support and blessing. Come to the canyon and let me cook for you!

  6. Hi RR--- as always, I am along for the ride and a yummy one this is! I love discovering that maybe the shadow side is sunny. --VW