I don’t like resolutions. I don’t see the reason of making promises to myself that I will inevitably break, because those promises are tied together by an arbitrary holiday. There’s nothing special about New Years Day other than the crackling hangover(1) you feel in the morning. Since there are no mystical powers from the new solar cycle binding your promises of self-improvement together, why even make the resolutions in the first place?
So when I made the resolution to finally start cooking for myself in 2017, I could almost hear my subconscious snorting from the deep center of my mind. This isn’t the first time I promised to do more cooking for myself. I remember when I first moved to San Francisco in 2012, I went to the corner market and got all the fresh produce my paltry copywriting salary could afford. Naturally, they were forgotten about until my roommate kindly reminded me to get my rotting shit out of his fridge. While I’ve always been fascinated by cooking, I’d never actually done anything remotely culinary beyond grilling steaks and making “Doh Specials” in college(2).
Cooking isn’t like any other shortcoming I possess. I will drink up any tips about exercise, particularly because I have zero desire to injure my lower back for the zillionth time. I’m a sponge for any professional advice to help me achieve a comfortable lifestyle. I will listen intently to any ladykiller proffering sage words to help enhance my lockjawed bar game. It’s something that I’ve learned to accept as I got older – I’m not good at a lot of things, but I can get better if I just listen to those who’ve achieved what I want.
I’m not like that with cooking. I get annoyed and frustrated when people want to help with my struggle in the kitchen. It’s not that I hold delusions of grandeur about my knife skills. I know I’m shit at cooking. I haven’t done it long enough to be good. There’s no pride to be hurt. There’s no history to insult. But as the fire alarm goes off for the fifth straight day when I’m stir-frying chicken and vegetables together, the last thing I want to hear from my roommates is “I think you shouldn’t use so much olive oil next time.”
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. I’m sorry. That was harsh. You didn’t deserve that.
I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because working out, cultivating my career, and getting laid are all very important things, but at a very reduced level, they’re not as important as dinner. I mean, that makes sense on some level of logic, right? Let’s armchair therapy this bitch: I get angry at people needling me for failing at something that’s supposed to be critical to my survival as a singular organism on this beautiful mistake of a planet. All the other things determine my status on this made up social structure, all important to success. But dinner? That’s a major key, like oxygen, water, regular bowel movements, and sleep.
But it still doesn’t explain why I’m especially sensitive to cooking. Cooking in itself is a luxury. I’ve learned through researching how to get a Vegas-presentable body in a month that if one wanted to, one could live off of protein shakes, Powerade Zero, and multivitamins. The real core importance is the fact that it’s edible food, not the fact that it’s made into something delicious, so why is cooking this sensitive, cordoned off section of my very flawed make up?
Bear with me on this, but somehow I found part of the answer at a crossfit gym.
As a first-timer to crossfit, I was obviously terrible at everything. I was bad at man makers, thrusters, cleaning and jerking(3). But these are all movements I had to learn in order to move onto the full class, which is usually structured into three parts – warm-up, some kind of heavy activity that’s either based on weightlifting or gymnastics, and then the workout of the day AKA the WOD.
The WOD is what really gives crossfit its funcrushing reputation. It’s usually an unbroken high-intensity work out that combines plyometrics with dynamic weightlifting for a long sustained period. As a first-timer, there would be WODs where I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish. I can barely do 1 pull-up with my 200 pound ass and spaghetti arms, and these motherfuckers are telling me to do 50 in 20 minutes? Na dawg.
But as I progressed, and started sucking less at some of the movements, I came across WODs where I could conceivably complete from start to finish. Ironically, those are the WODs that tired me out the most. They seemed easier than the ones I knew I couldn’t do, for the sole purpose that I could actually do these ones instead of failing miserably at exercising. But because I don’t have an internal excuse to shirk the workout, these easy WODs were the hardest days of my expensive exercise classes.
That’s where it hit me. When I cook, I follow the recipe to the best of my ability. It sucks, it takes me a lot longer to plate the dish than most other competent cooks would, but I do it. The shitty thing is, after all that trial-and-error, I’m still no better than when I first started.
It’s the lack of perceived progress that weighs me down. Because you start learning how to cook by following recipes, there’s an illusion that cooking has a set roadmap towards improvement. You master chopping vegetables, then you master sautéing shit, then you master baking and all that other shit. But I’ve been erring my way through the kitchen for the last six months, and that improvement is still as intangible as my retirement savings(4).
That’s what’s infuriating, the amount of effort I throw into something that promises improvement with each hour I invest into it. 100 hours later and I still fucking suck at it.
I think that’s what separates the good from the mediocre. There will come a time when it feels like all these hours have been wasted. No matter how much money I spend at Trader Joe’s or how many hours I spend slaving away at the stove, I’m never going to be anything more than a sad bachelor whose idea of at-home gourmet is adding eggs to my Shin Ramyun. So at a certain point, why even bother? Why not just continue ordering Uber Eats and playing DotA for the rest of my life?
Because being that kind of sad bachelor is going to be a huge fucking drag on my quest to get jacked, further my career, and most importantly, get laid.