My Love of Cooking

One aspect of the (modern?) human condition that I am not a fan of is disdain for the younger generation.  Having been born in 1994 and considered a “Millennial,” I get sick of Baby Boomers complaining about us.  In fact, I just searched for an outline of generations’ timelines and the first article I clicked on lead with “We can all agree that Millennials are the worst.”  Millennials aren’t immune from it either, considering the millions of Buzzfeed articles claiming that if you grew up after the 90s and don’t remember VHS tapes or Tamagotchi then your future is doomed.

However, and I know this sounds contradictory, there are many reasons Millennials DO bother me.  Well, one big reason, and that is the term “adulting.”  If you use this term completely unironically, then you need to take a serious look at your life and your privilege.

“Adulting” is bad because it leads to things like Blue Apron and other meal kit delivery services.  While I like seeing new businesses sprout because of developing needs in the market, I do not think portioning out ingredients and sending them to people with a recipe they could get online should be a need.  And it isn’t, but Millennials can be lazy.  I think they get overwhelmed at recipes they see online, specifically by the number of ingredients and the concept of timing, and don’t want to buy things like spices at the grocery store because they’ll “only need it for that one recipe”.  (DISCLAIMER: I am not insisting that I’m not affected by conditions that formed this generation.  Just trying to have some self awareness.)

Don’t get me wrong, I see the benefits of Blue Apron.  However, I think my idea of a customer’s positive outcome from using a meal kit delivery service is much different than the service’s own.  Sending refrigerated meal kits across the country doesn’t seem sustainable to me, especially when each ingredient is contained in its own plastic package.  That hurts my heart.  The way Blue Apron can create positive change in this generation is if, through using its product, customers find cooking less daunting and become familiar with basic knowledge they need around the kitchen.  However, in my best case outcome, customers will only use the service a handful of times at most.  With the company offering new users free meals left and right as incentive to become lifelong customers, I don’t think we see eye to eye on their five year business plan.  Unfortunately, Blue Apron relies on Millennials maintaining their worst qualities (i.e. laziness) when it comes to learning how to cook in order to keep an engaged and loyal customer base.

As for my own journey in culinary arts (trying to find another word for “cooking” makes me sound overly dramatic), I knew the basics in the kitchen in my early years of college, and by the time second semester of junior year rolled around I didn’t have dining dollars anymore so I cooked much more often.  My proudest time was the summer before senior year: I worked 3 jobs (during the day and 3 nights a week) and made big batches of food to pack for the week.  During the late summer, my friends at my internship made a plan to get Chipotle one day the following week, and I was so excited.  I dreamt for days about the steak I would order.  Then I realized that the reason I was so excited was because I brought my meal to work every single day.  Every day!!!!  I only bought food one time the whole summer!!!!!

Here’s my advice: BUY THE SPICES.  I use chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, and other spices on the reg; they are staples in my kitchen.  If you’re too afraid to buy chili powder for that one recipe, then you won’t be able to experiment in the kitchen with chili powder and make killer tacos on a whim later.  Or make that other recipe that you pinned to your optimistic Pinterest board of recipes you’ll make “one day”.  I use chili powder multiple times a week.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Beyond spices, I keep certain items in my pantry at all times, such as black beans, garlic, lentils (I am a recent pescatarian!), backup pasta sauce (I’m not saying I make everything from scratch.  Trader Joe’s tomato and basil pasta sauce is still my go-to), oatmeal, olive oil, and other things.  My favorite moments in cooking:

  • Being creative to use up my produce before it goes bad.
  • Trying a new recipe.
  • The general feeling of confidence I have in my ability to feed myself delicious meals.
  • Finally understanding how to make soup without a recipe (a recent development).
  • Finding out an ingredient I once shied away from is actually magnificent (e.g. kale, lentils).
  • Making the best use of my time so when dinner is ready, everything except the pan it is in is clean and back in the cupboard.
  • Having my family be impressed with my ambition in the kitchen.
  • When a family member makes one of my original recipes!
  • Being able to actually make a recipe because you have people to eat it.  Cooking for one is mostly fine (see next bullet point) but it means I generally don’t make appetizers or desserts.
  • Leftovers.
  • And finally, because I look forward to cooking, grocery shopping!

I think my point is that so much of my love of cooking has grown out of the learning curve I have experienced, and I hope that meal kit delivery services can’t maintain high retention rates (based on the article I found here, I have hope).  I hope their customers become comfortable enough after dipping their toes in the exciting world of cooking that they buy pantry staples and start working off of recipes they find online.  I won’t lie – just because I generally know how to cook and enjoy it most times doesn’t mean I want to cook all the time.  Nothing worse than planning on cooking a specific food but getting too hungry before you start, and then over-snacking.  That is me too often.  If you are an aspiring cook, I believe in you!

Recipes I found helpful when beginning to learn how to cook (I am in no way done learning)/I would recommend now:

Family chili recipe (I’m sure yours has one!) (Good but takes a while, not going to lie.  I’m also still pretty slow at cutting vegetables, specifically mincing garlic, so I always anticipate more prep time when that is involved, which should be always because garlic is wonderful.) (This is SO easy and fast and truly delicious.  Make sure you de-rib the kale!)

Chicken and Eggplant Lasagna (Noodle-less) – The link I pinned apparently doesn’t work anymore, but this is great because it helps you understand cook time of eggplant and how to make the cheese for lasagna.  I like this with ground turkey instead of chicken, but now I would put lentils in it to make it meatless! (You really achieve the right texture of take-out chicken with this one!) (This is the soup that make me understand soups!)

And finally, .  Your life will never be the same.

I like eating colors.
It doesn’t have to be pretty: eggplant lasagna with ground turkey (before I went pescatarian)
To be fair, I think I was just in charge of fruit placement on this one
My first on-my-own soup! Sweet potatoes, black beans, pinto beans, corn, kale, and goodness