There’s a Come Dine With Me competition taking place between my friends and my self. It started last week with my night which, in my opinion, went all right. More on that below. I do like cooking, it’s something that is in my mind not a chore but something that is fun, something that is not too hard but also acceptable to make mistakes with. I cook normally only for myself, so when I make burgers, pasta or chicken I make it how I like it and if I screw it up that’s my own problem. I deal with it and still eat it. Once I under cooked a chicken. So what, I thought, I made a mistake, and that was the end of it – the consequences end there, really.

This doesn’t mean that I am any good at it – sure I enjoy what I make and what I eat when I make it, but do I have the skills that actually make a good cook? Think about it this way – you can study how to do mathematic problems, figure the theory, and even do well at problems given to you, but that does not an engineer make. I understand the skills that footballers such as Messi and Rooney can execute, but I can’t make my feet do it. Am I, in a word, any good?

It would appear… not really. I made (as seen from my menu on another blog) mini burgers, hot dogs, steak, potatoes and a cheesecake. The cheesecake was the height of my cooking ambition, requiring actually cooking and baking and preparation extending into the day before. It almost worked perfectly – it was slightly undercooked and maybe too cheesy, but I think it was a pretty good attempt. I think my “entertainment” which was basically just getting drunk and chatting went okay too – it probably benefitted from being the first night to be honest.

What I did realise was that I was better at the organising of cooking than the actual cooking – everything was timed to pretty much perfection – the starters cooked in time, the potatoes were ready for the grilled steaks and the cheesecake and topping was ready to serve. I think I know why this is the case – when I was a Scouter I had to organise food for 8 days for 45 people. I had to come up with a menu (balanced and healthy), buy all the food, the quantities, and then dish it out to the Scouts. Harder than it sounds, believe me. Buying that much food in those quantities isn’t an easy thing to do, but something that after a few mistakes (like buying oven cook Apple Pies and not enough cheese for burgers) I think I got it pretty much down to an art form.

Camping taught me how to organise food but didn’t teach me how to cook. We were cooking on Braziers which had no heat settings and on utensils that had been abused by generations of Scouts before me. In these circumstances cooking is reduced to just “making” and as such my up bringing on cooking is made of slapdash overcooked / undercooked food that is just thrown together in any order and in any state. I know my other CDWMers will be better at the cooking part, and maybe even the hosting part, but I challenge any of them to a cook off for 45 children outdoor using a butane stove and Makro bought Sausage Casseroles, Angel Delight and Soup.

Maybe we can do a Come Camping With Me next time.