True or False: If you can read, you can cook.

I’d like to answer this one in double time and say – FALSE.

I was considering leaving the answer until the end of the post, waiting until I’d discussed, dissected and then proven my argument. But I’d actually rather forget last night’s dinner, and how I actually came to this conclusion.   Let’s just say I thought I’d be creative and ad lentils, and it didn’t go down so well.

I once read that if you can read you can cook. I’m not sure where I read it, but I think it might have been at the preface of a really old cook book from my grandmother’s day, because it said something like: Follow the instructions and make sure you measure everything exactly. Check the temperatures are correct. If it still doesn’t taste right – you probably just need to add more fat!

No celebrity chef in their right mind would be dishing out that kind of advice in this day and age of The Obesity Epidemic.  Unless it’s Ian Hewittson. But he does a lot of things I don’t believe qualify him as an ‘actual’ chef. Like opening a can of pesto and adding that to the meat he had the butcher cut for him.

You would never catch Jamie Oliver pulling a slick move like that. Nooooo! First he goes to his garden where he’s growing it all – organically of course. Then he gets out the mortar and pestle… grinds that garlic and basil and parmesan and those pine nuts – and Hey-Pesto!  Just like that! And the meat? Oh Jamie’s practically out there killing the animal, and naturally – in the most humane and kindly way.

How the crap does he always make it look so easy?  And so quick?  Is it because he speaks a million miles an hour? You feel like things are moving faster than they really are? I mean have you ever tried to actually write down what Jamie Oliver is cooking? I did once. Lamb shanks where he used anchovies (pronounced ancha-vees), instead of salt. I’m sure I left out about 5 things. They were barely edible.

I should learn not to watch chefs like Jamie Oliver and then use their creations as a way to gauge my own skills in the kitchen. Like I don’t watch Michael Phelps to determine if I can swim.  And I don’t watch Beyonce on Video Hits and try to recreate those exact moves myself? Oh wait yes I do.

People who can cook don’t have to measure seasoning. People who can cook don’t have conniptions every time they have to cut fat off raw meat. People who can cook can cut up an onion and watch TV at the same time. People who can cook don’t measure the amount of olive oil or butter they first put in the pan. They just throw it in there with gay abandon… so smugly – knowing it’s the start of something brilliant and delicious.

I mean I have had the odd gamble on the “I’m Just Going To Throw It All In” game. I don’t usually win though.  The only time it’s ever worked for me is if I’m using pasta and mascarpone cheese. But you could add brussel sprouts and monkey feet to that – and it would still probably taste good.

I tend to have a bit of a repertoire. Mine includes a few varieties of pasts, risotto (but I need the recipe for that), Lennards chicken schnitzel with mashed potatoes and broccolini, the cous cous where you just ad water, and any of the El Paso Mexican meals. Which leads me to last night’s dinner, and why I thought using a Donna Hay recipe in conjunction with the instrcutions on the back of the box was a good idea…. but again – let’s not got there.

If my husband is not going to be home at dinner time, I usually make myself breakfast for dinner. The key ingredient (and you might want to grab a pen and jot this one down – because it is really good), is cornflakes. I usually add a low fat cow’s milk, but you can replace that with soy milk, or rice milk, or a full fat variety if you like.  If you’re a sweet tooth you can ad honey or sugar, but since this IS DINNER, I prefer to go without, and save the pack of Tim Tams for dessert.

Another favourite meal of mine is cheese on toast. Or peanut butter on toast. Both quick, and both excellent sources of protein. 

You know now that I think about it, I am very good at potato salad. And – thanks to my ex boyfriends Sicilian mother who instilled in me the importance of being able to prepare meals for my ‘fianzata’ my ‘salsa al pomodoro e polpette di carne’ aren’t too bad. (Meatballs and Tomato Sauce) Actually, I don’t pull them out of my chef’s hat very often – but when I do I get rave reviews.

And you know what else I just realised – I actually get requests for my chocolate brownies ….. Yes I know – Nigella Lawson – watch your back!

Truth? I’m probably not THAT bad a cook. But I can’t figure out why the dishes that require me to use a recipe are the one I stuff up big time.

I have attempted a million dishes ‘straight from the recipe’ that have been monumental disasters! Hang on…. maybe I actually can’t read.

Or maybe it’s because I find myself skimming over the recipe the same way I look at the instructions for assembling a bookshelf from Ikea.

Perhaps my earliest assumption was wrong. Maybe if you can read – you CAN cook.

Perhaps they should put this in the preface of every reputable cookbook instead: 

If you are impatient, think you know it all, and don’t intend to study each recipe carefully and make sure you have the right ingredients – you can’t cook – so don’t bother!



  1. sonjah B · April 18, 2010

    ha ha funny post ! I think I am a great cook but recently I followed a recipe to the freaking letter and made beef borington (bourginion?) I can’t spell it and since I have thrown the recipe book away I can’t go check!
    I think when you are trying to cook something new, you are as good a cook as the recipe is. If it’s a shit recipe, and you put your trust in it and follow it and the end result sucks, then it is the recipe’s fault.
    I don’t usually follow recipes to the letter and maybe that is why I am a good cook? It helps if I have actually eaten something before so I know how it should taste and I will make it taste right ignoring the recipe if needs be. But in the case of beef borington I have never actually eaten it, I only saw it on my kitchen rules or masterchef . Also like you Cindy I learnt from an ex boyfriend’s Dad how to cook Indian/Burmese food. I used to follow his Dad around the kitchen asking questions and writing things down and that is definately the best way for me to learn anything; and I also watched my Nonna for the Italian experience.
    I feel sorry for children who grow up with non cook parents as they lack the confidence to do the simplest of things in the kitchen and then have to put their trust in recipe books that may have pretty pictures but sucky recipes !

  2. cyclonecindy · April 18, 2010

    Ive sampled your goods. You are a brilliant cook, from your pasta to your choc caramel slice…. Which I sometimes dream about by the way… xo

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