Things that inevitably happen the first time you cook for your family

After over a decade of your parents feeding you night after night, the time has come to put your money where their mouth is and cook them a meal. You know where the oven is: you’ve seen things go in and out of it, and the hob looks easy enough. It’s all just button pushing really, and your phone can testify to your tekkers in that department. In fact, come to think of it, you’re not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. How hard can this cooking lark be?

Simultaneous equations

Forget cookery books: if being a phone addict has taught you anything, it’s that the answer to all life’s questions lie in the internet – and that includes recipes. You google ‘family cooking’ (or should, if you haven’t already) and up comes Jamie Oliver. There are family favourites, recipes for feeding a crowd, healthy meals, veggie dishes… jeez, who knew there was so much you could do with food? As you click through them all, your brain sizzles on a low heat with the effort of recalling all your fam’s likes and dislikes and, bearing in mind what’s already in the fridge, calculating the budget of each dish. You feel the first twinge of regret for your offer. You’ve an essay to write, three Pretty Little Liars eps to catch up on before bed time, and you’d give anything right now for your dad’s chicken kiev. Six hours of deep-sea internet diving later, you surface triumphantly with a recipe for Pukka yellow chicken… only to remember spicy food gives your stepmum the shits.

One potato, two potato

Fish cakes it is! Looks lush and seems, from the number of steps involved, pretty simple. Now you just need to adjust whatever quantity the recipe says it serves with the number of people in your family. Why, oh why, didn’t I listen in Maths? Gah. With potatoes it should be simple – if 300g serve 4 people, 600g serve 8 etc – but things grow a little more complicated when it comes to grams of smoked haddock fillets. What do you do with the leftover third of a fish? Or the mountain of parsley you end up buying because you misread 15g as 150g and you’ve basically bought a tree?

Stick it to me baby

A word of warning here for anyone planning to take this stuff literally and actually cook fish cakes: raw smoked fish smells pretty savage. As will your hands after you’ve reduced five of them to flakes and mixed them with that mound of potato it took you half your lifetime to peel, cube and mash. The fishy mash will stick to your fingers. The parsley will stick to your fingers. Your hair will fall in your eyes, you’ll go to brush it away – and it, too, will stick to your fingers. OMG, please try to resist the temptation at this point to pick up your phone. It’s true of fishcakes, but in any recipe there will come a point when all you can see is vegetable peel before you, oil slicks behind you and mess everywhere else — and that’s before your eyes cloud over with the mist of onion tears.

Help! I need somebody

And not just anybody. Trust me when I tell you that at a certain moment in the proceedings, you will need your parents, AS to the P. Maybe your onion is burned; maybe your fish cakes are soggy AF; maybe you’ve broken a glass into the mix (if you do this, ABORT ABORT. There’s no going back from that) or forgotten to add a vital ingredient. Whatever it is, when you realise you’re facing less of a cook up, more of a cock up royale, it’s okay to call mum or dad.

Dishing up

Your doting parents are gunning for your first dinner to be the GOAT, your siblings may have other ideas – but so long as your brace yourself for a solid trashing, the only way is up. It’s a great feeling, feeding people – particularly those you love. It’s the fastest way to anyone’s heart, and great practice for when you’re flying free. However not okay your first experience was, trust and believe me when I say, you WILL get better – and you’ll learn to, if not love it, at least be able to put something edible together one day. You hope.

@clare_finney

Image: Hailey Hamilton

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