I'm a terrible cook and seem to be getting worse every year. There was a time in my late 20's when I knew how to cook well enough to get by, but my tastes have changed since then (hot dogs for lunch don't cut it anymore). Enter my new favorite book:
Cooking Basics for Dummies! This book is great because it is really basic. If the recipe tells you to thinly slice an onion, you can turn to an illustrated page that shows you how to slice an onion. Really basic.
Last night I made a simple dinner of a salad and an entree using recipes from the book. It was one of the best meals I've cooked in recent memory. Nothing got burned and it wasn't too salty or oily. But it took a looooong time to make it.
I wanted to follow the recipe exactly because I have a tendency to miss important steps like adding essential ingredients or reducing the oven temperature. So I chopped and sliced at a snail's pace, reading and re-reading every word, without wandering off to watch television or play with the cats while my food cooked in the oven. At first I felt ridiculous taking so much time to make a simple meal and told myself repeatedly that I should be able to do it faster. But eventually I relaxed and let myself enjoy the process of cooking a careful meal for myself, and that might have contributed to it tasting so good.
Isn't it funny how we value speed? I'm beginning to think it's highly overrated. I am constantly trying to figure out how to knit more quickly, but maybe the trick is to learn to enjoy doing it slowly, to savor each stitch, each row, each little chunk of time dedicated to creating something with your hands. The instructor who taught my first sock class told us that whether we knit tight or loose, we should make adjustments to the pattern rather than trying to change the way we knit. I thought that was great advice for life in general. Acceptance. Not trying to change yourself. Being present to who you are and how you do things and not judging whether you should be faster or slower or tighter or looser.
Tonight I'm going to attempt to cook another meal, so I'll see if I can put that in to practice.