When it comes to recipes, I believe there are a few different types of people. There are the ones who maintain recipe books, filled with either hand-written or cut-out recipes of every single thing they’ve ever cooked. There are the ones who use recipes from the internet (often from a favourite bookmarked site), following every instruction in exact detail. Then there are the ones who browse the internet five minutes before they decide to cook something, find an uncomplicated recipe, take a cursory glance at the ingredient list, shut down their computers and then proceed to do whatever the hell they want.
It won’t come as too much of a surprise that I’m of that last variety. Now, while I don’t cook very often, whenever I do, I’m almost always pretty happy with the outcome. I can’t tell if this is a result of me being a non-fussy food lover or because what I cook is genuinely good. I can’t tell what other people think about my cooking, either – I’ve only ever cooked for close friends and family, and because they’re generally good people, they never have anything bad to say. (Rather, they don’t say anything bad.)
To be fair, I stick to simple, easy recipes, so there’s not much that can actually go wrong. I’m a religious follower of the one-pot lifestyle – if I need to use more than two vessels simultaneously, it’s not worth it cooking it myself. I do try and make an effort to make food presentable – I use a lot of different coloured vegetables in my cooking, for example – but I will also admit that I’ve made food that has looked great but tasted terrible. The incident that sticks out most in my head is the Great Spinach Soup Disaster of 2012, where I tried making soup out of raw spinach (I wanted it to look bright green, instead of the dull green it turns when it’s cooked) and as a result of which my stomach cut ties with me for a whole two days.
Even when I’ve made dishes that people have expressed an enjoyment of, however, I can’t replicate the success exactly because of my agar agar way of cooking. So it will happen that I’ll make a dish that someone likes and asks for on another day, at which point I’ll get stressed about being put on the spot, try to remember what I did the previous time, invariably bungle up a few ingredients (I can never wrap my head around the idea that leaving out one little ingredient can change the taste of a dish), and end up serving that poor person something sub-par, after which they never ask me for anything ever again.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I genuinely do have a tough time with recipes. It’s probably because I guesstimate a lot (if you’re guessing at an estimation, that’s twice the inaccuracy), because I’m very bad at measurements (I’m still mystified as to whether 100g should feel heavy or not), because I have only a rudimentary understanding of physics (“Why does it matter if you add excess water – if you cook it long enough, it will evaporate!”), and because I tend to ignore numbers in recipes and focus just on the words. This applies to word-of-mouth recipes as well – my brain will pick up the list of ingredients mentioned, but I’ll either filter out or forget to ask about how much of anything I need to use.
And that brings me to now – I hurriedly asked my mom for a cabbage recipe this afternoon before she went off for the evening, and now I’m sitting here, halfway done, not sure if I’ve used the right amount of cabbage, let alone all the secondary ingredients. Then again, the upside to not cooking very often, at least where my mom is concerned, is that when I do cook, it’s such a miraculous event in itself that it overpowers what may be lacking in, you know, taste and general edibleness.
At least, I hope that’s the attitude she takes when she comes back tonight to cabbage mush. Hey, it was her recipe!