By Adam Chaffe
Learning how to cook your own food is a very important thing for someone to do, and the earlier you learn the better. If you do not learn how to prepare your own meals, you will always be dependent on others for a very basic requirement of survival. Of course you can get by this way, but you will never get the same satisfaction you get from eating a meal that you prepared yourself. Eating a delicious home cooked meal that you put your all into is almost therapeutic compared to just downing a quickly prepared meal from your local fast food chain. If you gain some culinary skills at a younger age, it will help you in the long run and assure that you will not be dependent on others for an embarrassingly long time. It will also prevent you from missing out on the pleasures of cooking for yourself. Unfortunately, I was one of those kids who never cared to learn how to cook, and was then forced to learn the hard way when I got older.
When I was a kid my parents prepared all my meals for me, or at least made sure that I had food by taking me out to eat or just getting me take out. I was always a fan of this because it was easy and I was well fed, plus it never caused any problems for me. That was the case until I got assigned a project in my sixth grade cooking class to prepare my own meal at home. On top of this I also had to bring in a recipe and pictures of the meal that I chose to make. Since I never made my own meals I was left clueless as to what I would cook. I tried to think of an easy meal that I could quickly learn how to make without totally screwing up. After presenting this problem to my older sister, she suggested that I just make a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato soup to go along with it. It was the perfect solution to my problem, it was quick, easy, and only required a few ingredients. I remember thinking how simple it was and that there was no way I could screw that up, unfortunately I was wrong.
I started out with the tomato soup because I was just using the canned version, so I just quickly put it into the pot and started cooking it immediately. Then I moved onto the grilled cheese, and even though it was just a couple of ingredients I still asked my sister how to make it just to be sure I didn’t mess it up. Luckily I did because I was unaware that you are supposed to butter the bread before placing it on the pan over the stove. Of course she teased me about knowing so little about cooking, and I took it because I knew at that point in my life that I should be able to make a grilled cheese. So after she had her fill of teasing me, she finally left me alone to get this project over with. I proceeded to put the first buttered piece of bread on the pan, which I then followed up by placing the cheese over that, and then the second piece of buttered bread on top of the cheese. Once I had everything cooking I decided to sit there, and relax since everything was going according to plan. Little did I know that somewhere along the line, I had already made a grave error in preparing this simple meal?
A little time has passed since my sister left me alone with the food, so she came back down to check up on me. She came and looked at the sandwich I was making, and I was patiently awaiting her approval, but when she turned around to comment it was not one of approval. “Did you do what I told you?” she asked, to which I replied, “Yes of course.” She insisted that I did something wrong since something didn’t look right with it. Her main concern about the sandwich was the bread, she told me it looked dry and asked if I buttered the bread. I assured her I did along with everything else she told me to do. All of a sudden her eyes lit up and she got this smug little grin on her face, which no matter how much time goes on I will always remember. She then asked me which side of the bread I buttered, and I instantly felt defeat. But instead of getting upset about it I laughed along with my big sister.
I made a huge rookie mistake by buttering the sides of the bread in contact with the cheese instead of the sides that touch the pan. In light of this error, I took off my first attempt to make a grilled cheese and put it off to the side to make another one, and this time I would do it right. After I completed my new and improved grilled cheese sandwich, and the tomato soup was done cooking I displayed it on a tray and took pictures for my class project. It may not have been nearly as eloquent as some of my classmate’s meal projects, but it sure tasted good. It not only tasted good, but I got a lot of pleasure from the fact that I made this myself, which was a certain satisfaction that I never felt before. One grilled cheese didn’t really seem to fill me up as much as I hoped though, so I ate the first sandwich I attempted to make as well. And even though I buttered the wrong sides of the bread I got just as much satisfaction that I got from the first one I ate.
Not learning how to cook cannot only be embarrassing, but dangerous as well. A few years later I was a little more independent when preparing my meals, but still an amateur. I became much more picky with the food that I ate because I liked to eat it the way I cooked it, so my father showed me how to work the new grill so I could grill the food to my liking. One day when he was off at work on a hot summer day I decided to cook myself a plethora of food. I took out a pack of hotdogs and steak, which I now realize was an odd combination, and set them on the grill to make my feast. I was very hungry and impatient, so I turned the knob that controlled the heat well above medium verging on high. I did this a lot when I would make hotdogs, but usually I would grill steak at a lower temperature and take my time with it. As it would turn out, my impatience would cost me.
It didn’t take long for flames to start shooting up in the air when the grill was open, and for my mom to start panicking. I kept assuring her it was fine even though this had never happened to me, and I didn’t really know what I was talking about. When the flames got even bigger and hotter I turned the grill off altogether, but there was still fire burning inside the grill. Now my mother was really freaking out, and decided to try to put the fire out with a hose across the yard. She picked it up and got in an athletic position with her knees bent trying to hit the fire from ten yards away. She continued to get even more worried when the fire refused to quit, and also began yelling at me. Since her attempt was not working I grabbed the hose from her and walked right up to the grill and shot the fire point blank, and the fire was dead. When my father came home and saw what I have done he just shook his head and went out to assess the grills damage. It required a lot of cleaning, but it was salvageable.
Although no one was hurt, hurrying to cook this food while still being an amateur turned out to be a very dangerous task. It was also embarrassing like the grilled cheese incident, and it just goes to show the importance of learning how to cook properly. Somehow the hotdogs survived the blaze and were real crispy, which is how I prefer my hotdogs to be cooked, so I was at least able to get something out of the whole mess before I had to tell my father that I messed up his brand new grill. I have learned from my experiences, and if I ever have children I will make sure to teach them about cooking and preparing their meals so that they can better avoid these types of situations that I found myself in while growing up. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of that feeling of accomplishment when they dig into a meal that they worked so hard to create.