So, I am and have always been of the impression that after a man reaches a certain age, he should be able to cook at least several basic meals, and that he should need no recipe for said meals because cooking isn’t brain surgery, it’s putting together good things to eat.

For example, every child of 15 should be at least able to make spaghetti and sauce. Hopefully, said child will be taught to make homemade sauce rather than crap out of a bottle filled with sugar and ketchup, but at even canned sauce is better than no sauce. Said child will never starve, now that said child can make spaghetti and sauce.

But part of the rites of manhood include learning to make chili, beef stew, a hamburger or a steak on the grill, a really great sandwich, eggs, and meatloaf. Once said child becomes said man, there are no recipes involved. We know the basic ingredients. We’re not afraid to pound on our hairy chests and throw in something different to the mix if it sounds good or it’s available or it’s on sale. We don’t need step by step instructions, or measuring cups. You just cook that shit and make it good and enjoy.

So today is the Boyfriend’s Birthday, and he has specifically requested Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and also Broccoli on the side. Because this is a childhood comfort-food meal for him, and he figures that even with my unorthodox cooking beliefs, I probably won’t f**k it up too badly.

The Boyfriend is a person who uses recipes. Not because he needs to or has to, but because he loves searching the internet for just the right mix of ingredients that sounds particularly tasty on this particular day. He enjoys recipes, and I don’t begrudge him that enjoyment. I just don’t share his fondness for digging through all the crap recipes on the internet trying to find something new and interesting to eat. I prefer going to a nice restaurant and paying a professional chef to do that for me.

Because seriously, there are some horrible awful really bad nasty recipes on the internet. Rated five freaking stars. Followed by hundreds of comments from other bad cooks saying what a great recipe this is except I changed this ingredient and that ingredient and broiled it instead of baked it and made fish sticks instead of the chicken alfredo that the recipe was written for. Really? You had to change it that much to make it edible, and then you rated it five stars?

Then there are the recipes from Martha Stewart and the Cooking Channel and Williams Sonoma, all of which should be required by law to begin “First, get out every single goddamn pot and pan you own, then go next door and borrow some more, then go to your local cooking store to buy some more tools you’ve never heard of or needed before at any point in your life.” These aren’t meals, they’re just ways to drag out something simple like a roast chicken into a 3-day event, because you’ve got way too much time on your hands.

My Meatloaf Recipe: Take Ground Meat. Add Good Stuff To It. Toss It Around Together. Cook It In A Loaf Pan. One Hour. 350 degrees. Yum.

My Mashed Potato Recipe: Cook Potatoes Until They Are Soft, by any method including baking, boiling, or microwave. Peel them or not. Mash them up by hand. Add a stick of butter and a huge gob of garlic. Maybe a little milk if you got the wrong kind of potatoes and they’re not smooth enough. Yum.

My Broccoli Recipe: Shit, you can eat broccoli raw and it still tastes good. Do anything you want to it. Whatever sounds fun today. Steam it. Roast it. Chop it up into little tiny pieces and mix it with interesting stuff and make a sort of salsa out of it.

In other words, our taste buds are very loudly hooked in to our brains. Cooking should require the use of brains. Fortunately, for those without brains, there are recipes. Because how else would we know how to make a casserole with Ritz Crackers and Cream Of Mushroom Soup in a can?

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