You have to eat but hate to cook – Etiquette Central is here to help

(The Pledge, Laura Alma-Tadema)

This is only for people who don’t like to cook. Not the barbarians with microwaves and one plate. Not the barbarians who eat out of the pot. Not the barbarians who say “I don’t like to cook” and then whip up a souffle.

I mean those of us who know there are so many more interesting things to do in life than stand in a kitchen and measure stuff, much less chop, sauté, baste or make a roux. And for those of us who happen to live someplace with very limited restaurant and delivery choices. Hence, no, I do not want to hear about the fab new tapas place in your neighborhood. Darling, I would walk 500 miles. And I would walk 500 more. Just to be anywhere close to a tapas place.

For you, my people, my tribe, my peeps-to-be who hate cooking: here is how to behave.

This post is your shopping list – next post explains how to make 10 minutes meals using these basics.

First, even though you hate it, you must make your kitchen basically livable: fry pan, pot, colander, baking sheet, baking dish, at least two plates and sets of silverware, a few small/ medium and large glasses, a few mugs/ tea cups, a small bowl, a large bowl, cutting board, small cutting knife, bread knife and few spatulas and wooden spoons.

Appliances: toaster, electric kettle, easy fruit blender (like Bullet) and a small electric chopper

Next, GET CONDIMENTS. This is the key! The door of your fridge must be stocked full. 1) helps save energy 2) you are ready to doctor any food you can get your mitts on 3) it looks like you are always ready for a party and 4) in case anyone comes over, it looks like you DO cook, you just haven’t gone shopping recently, not that you a useless git who can’t boil water. Start with catsup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, sliced olives (green and black), maraschino cherries, salad dressing

Also for the fridge: something like butter, a few cans of soda/ soda water/ tonic water; in the freezer: ice, bags of frozen spinach, corn, any other veg you like and some frozen fruit (frozen paratha are tres helpful)

Then a few flavors to add zing: pickled mango, pickled limes, chutneys, soy sauce, wasabi, peanut sauce, hot sauce, fried onions, artichoke hearts, tahani, olives stuffed with garlic, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers in oil, sliced kalamata olives, green salsa, onion marmalade

Get a few spices (no, not spices to cook with, stuff to improve other stuff) – go to Penzeys for black pepper, salt, toasted onion and minced garlic, shallots, mint and a few mixes like Italian, Parisien Bonnes Herbes, Mural

Now make sure you have the bare necessities: olive oil, nuts, dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries etc.) honey, jam/ marmalade, some kind of pasta or noodles, tomato sauce, tuna, black beans, cous-cous, something breadish (croutons, Wasa, flat-bread, pita chips, Ryvita, crackers, crispbread, etc.)

A few things for drinks: a little white sugar, a little brown sugar, a few kinds of tea (PG Tips and something fruity from F & M), instant coffee (Littles!), some kind of long-life milkish entity

A nice pottery/ wooden bowl full of snacky-snacks: nut bars, protein bars, little bags of chips/ gummi bears/ dried fruit mixes

[you might need a set of measuring cups and spoons, as well as cupcake liners and a cupcake pan if you like baking mixes]

And you are done.

Look at the above list – you need never buy (much less cut) an onion, no need to mince garlic. No need to fuss with thyme/ oregano/ marjoram/ sage/ basil. No flour, baking soda, baking powder or “ingredients” – everything is ready to eat within seconds. Your weekly shopping (protein = eggs, tofu, cheese, meat) fits into one bag yet any person you adore can safely visit you. You are ready to offer hot drinks to friends in distress, you are free from hunger panics (snack bowl), and you can improve anything in a ‘doggie bag.’

Also, the things on this list don’t expire quickly. They don’t get upset if you use a little, wait a month and then use a little more.

Next essay: simple dinners (and, Darling, I mean simple, not Jamie Oliver simple: ‘oh just pick up some Romanian arugula, Lichtensteinian goat cheese, Syrian almonds and Peruvian honey’)