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Learning to cook with less reliance on prepared foods

Junecleaver_2 I keep thinking that if I got a really cute, retro apron, like the ones they sell at New Seasons, that something magical would happen. My meals would be transformed. The kids, my husband and I would all savor and exclaim about everything's deliciousness: organic, locally grown, balanced nutrition, hand-made, whole foods, all. Cooking wouldn't seem like work! Food would not cost an arm and a leg. Let's keep dreaming, shall we? The dishes would magically clean themselves... So, if anyone can recommend an apron with such magical abilities, please let me know.

Of course, it's not about the apron. It's about not really knowing how to cook. At one point, my mom was a great cook. Then she went the 70s career route (women's lib, remember?) and stopped cooking so much. This was when I was a teenager, so probably a good time for me to learn how to cook. Never really got any cooking lessons beyond how to heat up a frozen Tombstone pizza. My brother and I ate a lot of those for dinner in high school.

Flash forward to my 20s. I lived in my own apartment. Had a job. Subsisted off diet Coke, broccoli, corn flakes, coffee and lite Oreo cookie ice cream. The scariest part of becoming engaged was when I realized cooking meals might actually be involved. We went ahead with the marriage, and I guess I learned enough about cooking to warm my husband's heart. So I have my tried-and-true handful of meals I can make and that my family will eat. But deep in my heart, I know the dread truth: I am not a good cook. And I really don't like to cook.

Regardless I am trying to rely less on convenience foods. I made my own granola the other day. It was good, but not fabulous or anything. One of my kids will eat it; the other, no. I've been on a mission to clear out my freezer, so I made banana bread too (we had some old, black frozen bananas to use up). Instead of using the fool-proof banana bread recipe that I've always used, I tried a new recipe (why? I had no shortening, so I wanted a recipe that used oil instead of shortening and not knowing how to experiment, it didn't occur to me to just sub butter or something for the shortening...). It was AWFUL. Bless my dear husband for eating it this week. With a thick coating of butter and some jam, it was bearable. Thank goodness he needs a carb-loaded breakfast to fuel his bike commutes...

Is there any hope for a 41-year-old EnviroMom who doesn't know how to cook? I've recently had the cook book Feeding the Whole Family highly recommended to me. How did you learn to cook? From your mom, dad or other relative? Did you take cooking classes? Is it really that hard?

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