I have something embarrassing to admit: I didn’t learn to cook until after I finished college.
No, I didn’t always demand that my mom Cook for me whenever I was home — I stuck with boxed mac and cheese, frozen pizzas, Lean Cuisines, chicken nuggets, canned soups, fruits, and veggies that didn’t require any prep. So, yes, that means baby carrots.
My sisters both enjoyed Cooking and baking, but I never wanted to give it a try.
Here’s the funny thing: I actually loved food.
I worked in restaurants for years, and I really enjoyed trying new things and helping the guys in the kitchen come up with new menu items. I also worked in an ice cream shop, and there was nothing better than getting creative with sundaes and combining fun toppings and flavors.
By all means, I should have gotten into cooking, right? What was holding me back?
Honestly, I was scared of screwing up.
I was pretty klutzy, and I thought that I would burn myself, or just burn the whole house down. I know how ridiculous it sounds, but anxiety can leave you dwelling on worst case scenarios.
I also thought that anything I cooked would probably turn out disgusting since I was a beginner, so I told myself I just couldn’t stand the thought of wasting food.
Eventually, I reached a point where I was so ashamed that I didn’t know how to cook that I didn’t want to admit it, which held me back from learning. I knew that refusing to cook for myself was immature and lazy, but I didn’t want to change my ways.
After graduation, I moved to another country with my boyfriend and had to suck it up. Eating out all the time and buying prepared meals was too expensive.
I finally had no choice but to learn.
It was nerve wracking. At first, I ate tons of pasta — I still do, but at the time, I literally didn’t know how to cook anything else.
Trust me, just writing that down makes me feel a little pathetic. I was so behind in such an important life skill.
I would buy generic frozen pizzas for one euro from Tesco and add my own sauces and toppings. I learned how to cook rice, and I would add veggies and potatoes. Baby steps. I hated cooking meat, but I still enjoyed eating it, so my boyfriend would always handle that part.
I didn’t burn down the apartment. I did burn myself pretty frequently — still do, actually, I’m the queen of grabbing hot trays without oven mitts — but, surprise surprise, that was the worst thing that happened.
Most of the dishes I made turned out just fine.
Turns out it’s tough to mess up pasta. Shocking, I know.
About eight months after moving out, I decided to go vegan.
I knew I would have to get creative with food and learn how to approach nutrition in a whole new way. Once again, I was nervous, but I was determined to figure out a way of eating that worked for me.
This time, I did mess up. Constantly. I felt like I was learning to cook all over again, and I was experimenting with lots of new foods.
I refused to go back to eating animal products — despite all of my mishaps in the kitchen, I knew I was eating a much healthier diet than before, and I wanted to stick with this lifestyle.
However, I’m also not a huge fan of cookbooks or following recipes. So I had to get comfortable with doing my own thing and figuring it out as I went.
Nearly a year later, I’m still 100% vegan, and I cook for myself every single day. And I can finally say that I love cooking — I look forward to getting in the kitchen and making a mess.
My biggest accomplishment?
I actually enjoy cooking for other people now. Before, I was so scared to let anyone try things I had made — I thought no one would like my cooking.
Learning to cook forced me to get comfortable with making mistakes. Some dishes are a hit, some are a miss. The fact that I’ve gone from being totally incompetent in the kitchen to cooking tasty, healthy meals every single day in a year and a half has also taught me to be patient with myself — learning doesn’t happen overnight.
Alright, it’s almost lunch time. I’m thinking quinoa, veggies, and some baked sweet potato wedges with all my favorite spices — and a little hot sauce.
Learning to Cook Helped Me Deal With My Fear of Failure was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.