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Fear/trauma of cooking

JawfaceJawface Posts: 23 Boards Initiate
I'm 23 years old and neurodivergent. I recently moved out of my parents' house. I have a job which I usually don't find very stressful. I generally don't worry about other things going wrong too much.

But it's totally different when it comes to cooking. For dinner I always eat things I know how to cook (which beyond putting things in the microwave is about 3 dishes), or eat out. I know that I can't keep doing this forever, but I can't bring myself to try cooking anything new. Now, I don't think I can cook anything at all when I know other people are going to eat it.

When I was about 16, I used to look after my neighbour's kids twice a week. She expected me to know how to cook for them, even though I'd never been taught how to cook, and being a neurodivergent 16 year old I couldn't follow instructions for how to cook things that I didn't already know how to cook (so basically every night I was there it was pasta or pizza for them). It was really stressful for me; I had no guidance of how to do anything, just an expectation to cook something other than pasta or pizza (which I couldn't). As a result of that, I became more anxious about getting things wrong when cooking.

My girlfriend tried to teach me how to cook recently. She's a very highly strung person (which she would admit to I think). She was taught to do things by her parents in a very strict way, she was shouted at or insulted if she didn't understand things. She came to the conclusion that this is normal, and when she tried to teach me to cook, she took the same approach that her parents did with her.

This is obviously a doomed combination, a person who's very impatient when people get things wrong, and a person who doesn't easily understand instructions and who easily gets anxious when they get things wrong. And so it was; it didn't last long, and she eventually decided to cook for me whenever I'm with her, subject to me cleaning the dishes and kitchen afterwards (which I can do).

But now I don't know how to get better at cooking. I'm too anxious for people I know to taste my cooking. I hate it when people expect me to know how to cook. Even when I cook something just for myself, I get anxious about it going wrong.

It's weird though, I don't really care about things going wrong elsewhere in my life - I locked myself out of my flat accidentally last weekend, and I totally screwed up a piece of work I did today, but I don't feel too bothered by those things. I think it's related to trauma from past experiences of being expected to know how to cook, but I don't know what to do now.


  • Millie2787Millie2787 🐶 💜 Posts: 4,368 The Mix Elder
    Hey :)

    I’m also neuro diverse too and since moving to uni I must admit it does scare me to cook as the oven and microwaves are different to what I had at home.

    Maybe it might be worth finding out if there’s any life skills type courses near you at a local college as they usually include cooking as an element or even trying a Level 1 cooking course just so you’ve got the basics ?

    I Wonder if you could start with just making some simple things that involve the oven and take very little time to cook - These are some ideas that are really simple and not complicated as I feel you with having to follow long complicated recipes and if I’m honest I always end up cooking things on 180c (Gas mark 4)

    Wrap Pizzas
    1.You simply spread some tomatoe purée (The one in a tube) onto a wrap
    2 add your toppings
    3.pop it in the oven for roughly 4 minutes

    Cheese on toast
    1.Put some bread under the grill , 2/3 minutes on each side just to toast it or you can have a toaster if you have one
    2. Put some cheese on one side and put it back under the grill to melt

    Maybe you could also try cooking some of the microwave meals in the oven to get you used to using the oven ❤️
    Sometimes all you need is one person to believe in you , for you to begin to believe in yourself.
  • Ed_Ed_ Posts: 754 Super Moderator
    Can totally appreciate the stress of trying to do anything when you haven't been shown, regardless of what it is, but also given how sociable food can be, I can hear the added stress you are experiencing. Millie gave some great ideas for recipes or equally ways of building up skills through a course. It may also be worth looking if there are community groups in your area that you can volunteer in, as often there are people there that can take the lead in the actual cooking, but that you can help them and perhaps over time may feel more confident in knowing how to do certain tasks. One charity that does this quite well is FoodCycle. Not sure if there will be one local to you, however this is the kind of volunteer role that they offer. I am sure if not FoodCycle, there will be a community kitchen locally.

    Do you have some friends that may be a bit more patient than your girlfriend? It sounds like you think that approach could be helpful if the person you were cooking with perhaps could take things at a bit of a calmer pace?

    Finally, on the taste front, perhaps you could start off with some close friends who you trust not to make a big deal out of it if it doesn't go to plan. What I would say is that part of the fun of food is trying new things and so remind yourself that it is okay if it doesn't quite turn out the way you wanted, it is all a learning experience and some of the funniest memories I have of food is when things have gone wrong. Most people when learning to cook will have a moment when they did something that turned out badly, so you definitely won't be alone in this.
    "Don't let them paint you gray. They're gonna see you're somebody, somewhere, someday. Don't ever let them take your playful heart away. Oh you're somebody nobody could replicate" ~ Roo Panes
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