There is no worthwhile purpose to be served by telling someone they can’t cook. I speak from experience.
Fifty years ago, I was told repeatedly by my significant other that I was a terrible cook. Admittedly, he was right. I had grown up with an old-fashioned mother who enjoyed cooking and did it all for her family. I lacked any interest in gaining culinary skills and was quite happy to leave meal preparation in her capable hands.
To this day, half a century later, and with a new and more tactful spouse, I dislike cooking, I have no confidence that anything I make will be even remotely tempting, I haunt the frozen dinner section at the grocery store and I scheme mightily to eat out whenever possible.
Since I don’t believe that anyone over the age of seven should be told they can’t cook, I’ll devote this article to suggesting means to encourage a fledgling cook to improve their performance in the kitchen. If they are as bad as I was at the beginning, the only direction they can move is upward .
* The first time she cooks for you, eat the food if it chokes you (unless you think it might actually be poisonous. In that case, plead nausea, caused by the sudden onset of ‘flu.)
* Find something good to say about every meal- the soup was just the right temperature, the salad greens were crisp, or you think chocolate milk goes well with spaghetti. Be creative. Even the fact that the food was served on shining-clean plates could be considered praiseworthy.
* For the first while, if she asks what you’d like for dinner, pick something simple. Scrambled eggs on toast would be a much safer request than pheasant under glass, for both of you.
* On the next special occasion, gift your friend with a cookbook. Choose a simple recipe that it would be fun to cook together. As you collaborate in the kitchen, you can pass along simple hints which may seem like common sense to you, but which may be foreign territory to a neophyte chef.
* Suggest joining a cooking class together. Practice making the new dishes together and invite friends over to share the fruits of your increased skills.
* Always help with the clean-up. If you walk out after a big meal and your friend is left alone with a gigantic mess, much of the joy of cooking will be lost on her.
* Praise her every small success in the kitchen to others, within her hearing. As she gains confidence, she will branch out and try new dishes. Praise the ones you like to the skies and she will be anxious to repeat them. Quietly overlook the others. Be patient.
*When she is ready to prepare an edible meal on her own, you can continue to help by ensuring that she has the time and space needed, free of distractions, to give it her best effort. Entertain the children, take the dog for a walk, or offer to pick up ice cream for dessert at the corner store.
* At the end of every meal, plain or fancy, breakfast, lunch or dinner, whether it was a masterpiece or not one of her better efforts, remember to say “Thank you.” It shows that you appreciate the fact that she at least tried.
*Modern relationships are supposed to be partnerships. Take turns in the kitchen. After all, the world’s best chefs are males.
Never tell anyone they can’t cook. Not only is it unkind, it is also untrue. Cooking is not rocket science. A child can prepare a bowl of instant oatmeal in the microwave, or cook a bag of quick-cooking popcorn.
Good cooks are made, not born. With encouragement, praise and patience anyone can acquire the skill, as long as they are not completely discouraged and demoralized as they are starting out.
Everybody has to eat. Encouraging the cook to improve her skills is just the smart thing to do.