I can't follow a recipe.
Really. I sort of believe that I can follow a recipe, but I have probably never made something according to a recipe without making at least three changes.
Sometimes I post something on the blog that looks like a recipe, but it's not. It's an attempt to record what I happened to do in the kitchen on one particular day.
There are days when I envy people who can follow recipes. They can flip through a cookbook, pick something out, buy the ingredients, and make it! Crazy. They don't say, well, my husband won't eat those three ingredients, and I don't feel like searching the store for the other one, and no, I don't have a food processor and I can't find my blender, and it's just weird to put cashews in that, and seriously that's like four steps too many, and... forget it. I read 30 recipes, try to extract the relevant features, then just do something different anyway.
I don't know why I can't follow a recipe. I'm a reasonably intelligent person, I can follow directions in other contexts, and I appreciate expertise - I know that most people who write cookbooks know more than I do. I've even thought a few times about writing a cookbook - after all, I do make up most of my own food - but I'm 90 percent sure no one would find it useful.
I think I have two major impediments to following recipes. First, the way I think about cooking is very intuitive. I don't think, I want to make this dish, so I'll see what ingredients I have to buy and what I have to do to them to make it. I think, maybe I'll make chicken today. What else do I have? Onions? What kind of fat should I use? Do I want to do it in the oven or on the stove top? How about that weird spice blend I bought on impulse? This way of thinking about food does not mesh at all with following recipes.
Second, I like my food simple. I love to eat other people's elaborate food, I love going out to restaurants and trying new things. But at home, when I look at a recipe, my first step is to start subtracting ingredients and steps. I love a whole chicken basted with bacon fat and sprinkled with salt, slow-roasted in the oven. No garlic, no spices, no lemon. No braising, no marinating, no sauce or complicated side dish. One of my go-to meal is hamburgers cooked on the stove top. Throw some sliced avocado or tomatoes on them, done. My ingredients often don't get past the ingredient stage. I bought some nice olives? They don't make it in the meal because I ate them out of the package. Why would I put nuts in a curry when I could just eat them?
I never measure. I rarely plan. Maybe I'm boring. I didn't spend a lot of time after I went paleo trying to recreate old favorites. I just ate meat and vegetables and didn't worry about it. I did experiment a little at the beginning with muffins (actually my most popular post ever on this blog!), but now I just have one go-to muffin/cookie recipe that I make very infrequently because it's so damn addictive that I just want to eat the whole pan. Alek never gets "paleo treats". It's mostly because I'm so lazy I don't bother to make them, but it's also because they are hyper-palatable and one bite turns him into a crazy person. The grain-free banana cake I made him for his second birthday? He asked for Special Treat Birthday Cake every day for the next three months (to no avail). I sort of feel like that justifies my lazy approach to food. If I make elaborate, delicious food that I know will turn out amazing because it's tested and published in recipes, I'll go crazy and eat way too much and screw up my appetite signals. I guess I'd rather make simple, easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat comfort food at home and save the fancy stuff for the rare night out at a restaurant.