What’s on the menu?

Illustration by Ed Appleby

… And other questions a person who can’t cook would ask

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 4, 2014

Why are we so indecisive when it comes to food? Everyday, regardless of my workload, obligations, or responsibilities, I’m required to ask myself a key question: “What the fuck should I shove in my face to shut my stomach up?”

Sustenance, pleasure, and an inconvenience: food. I’m not super picky, but I do have my preferences, although sometimes my preferences change due to external influences. These influences include my vegetarian friends, the price of the meal, and of course, what people deem to be healthy. Needless to say, I eat most of my meals in front of the television, at my computer, or even lying in bed. I’m not a role model, I agree.

But the problem is that I choose not to consider what I want to eat until I am already too hungry to cook or even to drag my lazy ass to a restaurant. I just pop something into the microwave or oven and forget about it. Done. I’ll worry about that problem again in five hours or so.

Cooking is a skill that I simply never acquired and now I feel a bit ashamed, especially when I’m invited to potlucks or any social gatherings where I’m expected to craft some edible dish to impress my peers and friends. “I’ll bring the cups and napkins,” I’ll jest, dying a little on the inside.

Correct, I’m not Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, and I’m not even Guy Fieri in someone else’s kitchen. I’m just a guy who aims to stay alive and not get a steam burn when peeling back the cellophane of my Hungry Man.

It’s a sad position I have found myself in. In life, every person should be able to lick their fingers after a satisfying meal they have made for themselves—and then, of course, clean up after themselves. Nevertheless, I’ll never be an exquisite cook because of my bland taste, just like I’ll never become a tenor in a choir because of my tone deafness. It’s a fact that I have accepted. So I try to make myself useful in other ways: by suggesting meals to those willing to cook for me and by stocking up on crap that I can halfheartedly make at a moment’s notice. I don’t care if you don’t mind.

I have scrolled through Urbanspoon enough times to know that options and variety are far from the solution. Someone at some point needs to make an executive decision. When it comes to food, I have always been hesitant to speak up because I feel as though I have no authority in the say due to my taste. I was wrong. If I’m not the driver, I should at least be the navigator. Yes, true, I don’t care what we eat today, but I should be able to suggest something.

When it comes to picking restaurants or ingredients for dinner, it’s not about caring or not. You’ll have to eat, that is the fact! So make suggestions or pick something for yourself. At least one meal out of your day doesn’t have to be an indecisive mess in your schedule. So when it comes to soup or salad: I always pick soup.

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