by Kim Werker
Of all the kinds of things I routinely make or dabble in, cooking is the one I hate the most.
Cooking is, to be honest, the only one I hate. Because certainly the beauty of having a hobby is that you never have to do it, so the things you do are things you enjoy doing.
For me, cooking has been many things, but with the exception of baking very particular kinds of bread, it has never been a hobby.
Cooking has never felt like a creative act; it’s been more like a latent virus hanging around all the time, relentless in its threat to strike without warning. (You would think mealtimes would provide me with inherent warning, but you would be wrong. My mental block against cooking is strong, and on the nights I’m tasked with making dinner I always seem to glance at the clock at 5:30 p.m. in shock that I haven’t started yet.)
The one existing photo of Kim cooking, taken about ten years ago.
Maybe what makes cooking occupy such a fraught place in my life is that I don’t have any great love of food. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate a great meal. But if some people live to eat, I eat to live. Kind of like dating when I was a teenager, I just have better things to do than worry about something that won’t be in my life for very long and occupies an outsize amount of stress in my day-to-day.
Knitting is the opposite of cooking in many ways. Forget about how both involve following instructions and working in balanced proportions and relying on skills built up over time. Focus instead on how a meal literally disappears in minutes, and knitting can last for decades or longer.
Kim knit this tiny sweater many years ago and it’s still her go-to layer to wear over fancy dresses at weddings and holiday parties.
I can bounce around my kitchen for an hour in a frenzied mess of splattered sauces that stain my clothes and the walls and my cookbook, and end up with a possibly delicious meal my family will consume in under half an hour. Maybe that meal will last another day or two, because I’ll be damned if I don’t make as much of it as I can in that hour and leftovers mean I don’t have to rinse-repeat the next day.
Knitting, though? I can take a year to knit a scarf. Who cares how long it I spend making it? Literally no one is waiting for me to finish it, cranky and hungry. And when I’m done with it, I will wear it season after season, until I lose it or my kid claims it for his costume drawer or I give it away.
Kim has been working on this sweater for nearly a year. One day it will be wonderful!
Knitting is worth the effort, and not only because I enjoy the process. Knitting gives back in the form of ongoing comfort, fashion, satisfaction. When I learn a new knitting technique, I never again worry about doing it, even if it’s Kitchener stitch and I have to look up the instructions every time. Once I tackle a knitting skill, it’s with me for life. With every project I make, knitting gets easier, and that’s exactly how I like it.
But cooking? Meh. Cooking a dish one time does not at all mean I’ll cook the exact same thing without stress the next time. When I have a hundred things I’d rather be doing with my time–including my taxes, calisthenics and laundry–there is always stress about feeding my kid before he loses his mind from hunger. No amount of familiarity with a recipe takes that away.
And don’t even get me started about mistakes. Mistakes in knitting are amazing. They’re amazing because we are wholly in charge of what we do about them, if anything. That’s right: In knitting, we can decide that there are no consequences to having made a mistake. We can stare that twisted stitch right in the eye and be like, “Meh; I can live with you.”
Kim made this single sock once. She doesn’t remember when. She never made another. Who cares!
Or we can try on a top-down sweater we’re making and discover the shoulders are too narrow and we can be like, “Oy vey. Time to rip back and make those shoulders bigger. That’s a pain, but whatever.”
But mistakes in cooking? That’s a hummus that’s so salty even looking at it makes your arteries seize up. That’s a fall soup that makes you sneeze from a cumin miscalculation. That’s, “Um, Mom? Can I just have a peanut butter sandwich?”
Mistakes in cooking make the act of cooking a waste of time. And I have no room in my life for making things that aren’t forgiving. I just don’t.
My goodness, do I dislike cooking.
Ugh, I’m miserable even writing about it.
Hey, why don’t you come over with your knitting on my next night to cook, and let’s order in some food and sit together and talk and make stuff, yeah? That’s the kind of meal prep I can get behind.
Kim Werker writes and makes stuff in Vancouver, Canada, where she has perfected the art of swearing liberally while making questionably edible food. http://www.kimwerker.com