I don’t know of anyone who was as afraid to cook as I was when I was younger. I thought that if I cooked something it would probably turn out terrible, so I was paralyzed and afraid to try at all. This was very hard to overcome and produced many embarrassing and painful situations in my life.
For years I was afraid to cook for others. I feared criticism and didn’t want to disappoint my friends. I didn’t want to displease potential hungry diners so at times I have done the worst thing – which is not to serve anything at all.
I know there are others with a fear of cooking – so I’m writing this page for them, to hopefully share ideas on how to get past this issue, to learn to cook effectively, efficiently, and happily.
The word for fear of cooking
The fear of cooking is called “mageirocophobia.” Don’t let mageirocophobia ruin your life.
Let’s pronounce that right: ma-GEAR-ro-co-PHO-be-a.
Say it a few times. Let it roll off your tongue.
We can overcome mageirocophobia nearly as easily as we can learn to say it.
Here’s a humorous video about mageirocophobia. It was made by a college student for a class project. Are you ready to laugh at yourself? It might help in the recovery process.
The fear factor
How to overcome fear of cooking
If you fear cooking, learn first to cook for yourself. Figure out what you like to eat and become proficient at producing several types of meals for yourself.
At first you might cook only the main dish, with canned vegetables as a side dish. Later you can add on more creative side dishes, as you gain skill in producing your meal. Figure out what goes well with the main dish you’re training yourself to cook.
Once you’re wholly satisfied with your ability to cook for yourself, you may be ready to quadruple the recipe and invite some friends over to break bread with you.
Stress is the worst part of dinner parties
If you’re afraid of cooking, you’re not ready for dinner parties, especially if they include your mother-in-law.
I still remember the first time I cooked for my mother-in-law – I was terrified! I ended up cooking white rice with vegetables that came in a freezer bag, already cut, spiced, and ready to warm up. A great cook, I was not. But I got the food on the table, as nervous as I was, and we enjoyed lovely conversation, despite the food.
I’d do that differently now. First, I’d use my rice steamer which I love, love, love for an easy dinner. I’d use brown rice since that’s what I prefer. I’d use fresh veggies including potatoes and put them in the top part of the steamer. I’d serve a sumptuous dinner this way, quickly and easily, without the stress.
Somehow I suffered through the dinner parties and managed to feed my family. Sometimes I broke down and let my husband do the cooking. He didn’t have the anxiety I had, and didn’t seem to mind cooking. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. Watching him cook was a good lesson for me. Cooking didn’t have to be feared.
Working in a restaurant helped me overcome my fear of cooking
If you’re afraid to cook, maybe you’d like to get a job in a restaurant where you’re forced to cook. I wish I had gone to work in a restaurant (as a cook) thirty years ago. It would have saved me a lot of pain.
I finally did get a restaurant job late in life, and that helped me become more comfortable with food and cooking. I had to be trained to do everything – a natural cook I was not! But I managed just fine and learned to love cooking – in the restaurant. That of course carried over into my home life.
Get a good cookbook
I suggest you get a good cookbook if you don’t have one alreadys. Read the advice of cooking experts.
My first cookbook was The Joy of Cooking and I recommend it. This is a basic, general, all-around cookbook that contains hundreds of recipes and instructions on how to create traditional American foods.
Two other cookbooks made a huge impact on me when I was young. I quit eating meat when I was 17. My husband bought the Ten Talents Cookbook for me. It was an early vegetarian cookbook produced by Seventh Day Adventists, who are vegetarians.
The other cookbook was mostly text, with recipes at the end. It is now a classic: Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. That book helped me “get real” about the need for protein in my diet. I have used some of her ideas for cooking throughout my life.
Whatever your cooking interests may be, find a few reliable cookbooks that provide simple recipes you can copy and eventually, make your own. If you’re confident about cooking your special dishes consistently and easily, dinner parties won’t be so hard. Practice makes perfect.
Cooking anxiety can be met head-on
Sometimes when you’re afraid of doing something, when a phobia gnaws at your heart, the best thing to do is to do the thing that frightens you. I had a fear of crossing bridges, so I did it a lot, to force myself to lighten up and accomplish the thing that caused me needless fear. Do that scary thing so often, it just doesn’t bother you anymore.
You can examine the roots of your anxiety by thinking back to the time you first noticed it. My fear of heights started when my baby brothers were climbing around in the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House at Disneyland in Anaheim. I was afraid of them falling, not myself, but later that fear stayed with me.
Can you think back to the first time you felt fear of cooking? Can you identify exactly what things made you fearful? If you can, you can start talking yourself out of the anxiety. Look at the situation from your more mature, older perspective, and tell your younger self that there never was anything to fear.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook could help alleviate your fear of cooking. It might help to write about it. This workbook can helpf you work through anxiety and phobias. The workbook addresses generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, specific phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other anxiety-related issues. There’s a lot of information on all types of phobias.
Why we need to learn to cook at home
People without children often eat in restaurants the majority of the time. This is a convenience but you give up control of the ingredients that go into your food, and let’s face it, after watching episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, we have to wonder how clean the kitchen of the restaurant is. Apparently county restaurant inspections are not a perfect solution for restaurant cleanliness.
After children are born, most people realize that restaurant eating won’t be a good economical choice. It may be easy to afford that lifestyle for singles or childless couples, but start adding children to the mix, and it becomes much more expensive. Not only that, but when you have children, there are more important things to conserve money for.
The anxiety of cooking perfectionism
What happens if your recipe turns out wrong?
What happens if you’re expecting guests and your recipe turns out wrong?
What happens if your husband is annoyed because your cooking is terrible?
What happens if you are unable to cook because of your fear of cooking?
Do these things run through your mind when you’re planning to cook?
Allow imperfection to be a part of your life. Embrace imperfection.
Let’s be real. Most things in life are imperfect. We can learn to find beauty in imperfection. We can enjoy creating something without knowing the results will be perfect every time.
Accept all errors as learning experiences.
When my sister was a teenager she wanted to cook pork chops for the family. Unfortunately, she placed them in the oven and broiled them far too long. What she served came to be known as petrified pork chops. They were absolutely inedible, uncuttable, and… laughable. The family still laughs about petrified pork chops. She didn’t let it interfere with her cooking. She’s an excellent, confident cook and has been all her life.
Can you laugh at your cooking errors as easily as my sister has? Are you willing to be imperfect so you can learn to cook better? Every error can teach you something.
Years ago my husband and I wanted to learn to bake bread, and we did so every day for months. At first our efforts were unsuccessful. We made many loaves of bread that were disappointing at best, but we did not give up. Every day we would try again, and eventually the bread got better, and more creative, and quite delicious.
If you want to cook well, keep on cooking. Eventually it will be easy and enjoyable.
Allocate time for cooking
Too many days, especially during my years as a single person, I’ve told myself, “I don’t have time. I don’t want to spend my time cooking.” I get busy with my writing and web work and can go several weeks without a full meal.
Then I remember how nice it is to have a full five-course meal, and will take time to fix something nice. Even when I have only myself to cook for, the experience of having the full meal deal is wonderful. Quick and easy snacking meals are not always the best solution for a single person.
Treat yourself better than that. It is worth the effort to take time to cook a wonderful meal. Plan that meal cooking time into your day.
Meal planning reduces anxiety
When I look back on the times of my life when I was unable to function well as a cook, it comes down to one main flaw in my thinking. I wasn’t planning ahead. I would get busy with my day and put off the thought of planning dinner. Then when dinnertime came near, I’d panic, not knowing what to cook.
Don’t be like that. Like I tell my adult children, “Don’t be like me.” I really want them to be better than me. I want you to be better than me too. Make meal planning a regular part of your morning.
Breakfast cooking is easy, so make your breakfast and finish by taking a few moments to plan what you’ll be having for lunch and dinner. Make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. Know in advance if you need to go to the store for something.
If you plan in advance, you won’t have last-minute surprises and panic attacks over being unprepared and undecided.
What is your attitude toward cooking?
How do you really feel about cooking? Is a chore or is it a fun adventure? The way you think about cooking will determine the amount of anxiety you experience.
If cooking feels like a difficult chore, you can make a conscious decision to change that. You can imagine yourself to be one of the talented home cooks on Master Chef or some other popular cooking show. They obviously love cooking.
Work with yourself on this attitude change. You really can change your life by changing the way you think.
Have you been experiencing a fear of cooking or cooking anxiety? Let us know about your feelings about cooking in the comment section below.