Something everyone should know about me- I am a Food Network junkie. I adore watching cocky would-be chefs getting their butts chopped right our of the kitchen and watching culinary artists create gravity defying miracle confections out of pickle juice and gum paste. This kind of talent awes me. However, I was quick to discover that being great at watching cooking shows hardly translated to being good at the actual cooking part. I graduated college a complete and utter flop in the kitchen. I am an educated woman, full of modern ideas and political opinions, but I have to tell you, I would have benefited a great deal from a semester of home ec. In fact, future academic game changers out there, let’s get on this. No frilly aprons and bouffants for our future students, but I say let’s make every college student get through a survival level class in how to not burn down your home while attempting to cook something involving at least two of the food groups. Now, I survived undergrad on a pretty steady diet of cold bagels and caffeine on those days when I couldn’t make it to the dining hall, but after a few years away from college, I find I’m ready to expand my repertoire from spaghetti with bottled sauce and take-out, to some meals with just a tad more variety. I’m still working out the logistics on a steady diet of relatively nutrition and palatable foods that I cook myself, but I have picked up a couple “Really Stupid Things You Should Never Do” along the way.
1. If you are unfortunate enough to have to cope with a gas stove, first of all, my best wishes to you. And second, though more importantly, do not decide that the oven needs to preheat for an extensive amount of time and do no, do not, DO NOT forget to turn off burners. It’s crazy, but when you use gas you kind of have to be cautious about it. Apparently it’s kind of poisonous when you breathe a bunch of it in. After two calls to the authorities and two very sleepless nights (completely separate occasions btw) worried that I was accidentally poisoning my gf and the cat, the message finally sunk in. Gas = bad. Do yourself a favor and triple check that you’re not leaking toxic fumes into your world.
2. If you have any sort of food borne illness paranoia, do yourself a favor and invest in a meat thermometer. Seriously. Because if you’re at all like me, you will overcook to kill the germs or under-cook to avoid overcooking. It’s pretty much lose/lose. But if you get a fancy meat thermometer, you can just stick it in there and, voila, it magically tells you when you’re safe to chow down without risk of salmonella poisoning. Which is a big bonus because at some point dinner with a side of charcoal or potential bacterial infection gets a little old.
Now again, I’m no pro on this survival stuff and I haven’t quite got a grasp of all things cooking related, so a couple other ideas for not starving:
1. Steamers. Pretty much everything comes in steamable bags now and some of it’s even affordable and/or nutritious. It’s a quick fix pretty much anyone can manage. (Only, as we learned just last night, it’s wise to make sure the microwave is completely empty before tossing the bag in and pushing start.)
2. Deals! At some point, even the most enterprising culinary amateur gets sick of making an effort. Happens to me at least once a week. Days like that, make friends with Groupon or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a big city, fantastic apps like Level Up and ScoutMob. Living in NYC, any time we decided to go out, we ate for basically free or cheap. We got to explore all kinds of crazy stuff and we rarely spent more than $10 bucks to feed two people. We pretty much owned discount dining and it wasn’t even hard to do.
The likelihood is, you probably won’t starve. It’s pretty hard to do. But the biggest thing I have gotten out of this whole growing up and learning to survive thing is that there’s no point being scared to try new things. They’ll either be good or they won’t and either way no one’s hurt. Keep a couple of safety packs of Ramen in the cabinet in case of disaster and go play Iron Chef. (But try not to injure yourself or anyone else. Just a disclaimer.)