An Update from the Unwilling Cook

An update from Barry - The Unwilling Cook.

An Update from the Unwilling Cook

Many of you might remember Barry, our self-proclaimed "unwilling cook" from a few months back. Barry contacted me as a newly single, 60-year old British man who had never cooked a meal for himself. He had no interest in cooking, and it was out of sheer necessity that he wrote in. You all stepped in with hundreds(!) of suggestions (the most ever on this site). After that, some time passed, I didn't hear from the Unwilling Cook for a while, and to be honest I thought Barry might be a bit of a lost cause on the cooking front - but have a look at this letter, unbelievable...

From Barry, The Unwilling Cook 6/26/2007

"...As I said at the time of my initial letters to you, I was just stunned by the wonderful response from everyone to my pathetic bleating about "Not being able to cook, boo hoo!"

I took-on-board the comments and suggestions, and as a result... Tarrah! I have my own small repertoire of dishes that I can now confidently (ha!) prepare and cook. So boastful was I to my 30-year-old son (who really cannot believe that I even know where the kitchen is, let alone what I should do in it) that I was invited to his house in North Wales (UK) to demonstrate. And demonstrate I did.

Saturday's concoction was a mere unsophisticated corned beef hash, using beautifully creamy, golden Rooster potatoes, deli corned beef with butter, milk and lashings of black pepper. It was a real gut-buster of a meal with baked beans and tomato sauce, and they loved it. Well, they SAID they loved it, and that's good enough for me! Beer would have been the tipple of choice, perhaps, but a smooth, distinctive Rioja slipped down just as well.

Sunday's Stilton pancetta chicken with Italian salad and a very nice Valpolicella was absolutely stunning! Well, excuse the hyperbole but it was very nice... And followed by that simplest of dishes, creme brulee, using my son's new toy, a kitchen blowtorch, it was just perfect. Please bear in mind that two months ago I had never cooked anything. Not a thing. So now you understand why I'm elated over dishes that you aficionados gave up cooking when you were at High School!

My inspiration has come from various quarters. Firstly, sites like yours, Heidi - beautiful food, beautifully presented - who could fail to want to eat like that? Inspirational.

Then a dear friend has patiently talked me through many dishes (on the 'phone) and her mental perception of what I am actually doing is miraculous - she's saved me from many a disaster, just by being so au fait with cooking. She's a fantastic teacher - patient, kind, perceptive, intuitive. I owe her a lot.

The internet (naturally!) has been a fantastic source of knowledge, but particularly the video demonstrations. They have turned that blah blah jumble of words known as a 'recipe' into something that actually MEANS something to me. They have been very inspirational too.

Sadly, my huge bete noir is still "The Cookbook..." They just leave me cold, I'm afraid -at the moment that is. I hope that as my knowledge and skills (ha ha ha!) improve, they may actually come to mean something to me. And on that note, I have just purchased two fabulous books on Indian food (which I utterly ADORE) -The Curry Secret: Indian Restaurant Cookery at Home by Kris Dhillon, and The Curry Book by Laxmi Khurana. Both are very cheaply available from Amazon and are fantastic; a friend has them. I can't wait to try them out. Maybe this will be how I come to accept "The Cookbook"??

So there we have it... I AM cooking; cooking REAL meals; 'enjoying it' is maybe too extreme a term, but I'm not disliking it as much as I anticipated, so that's a good start.

The only message I have for those sad individuals who find themselves in my shoes is - try to use a knowledgeable friend/friends for help/inspiration/advice; watch the internet video demonstrations; take 'inspiration', not 'aspiration', from cooks like Heidi; don't be too ambitious to start with; and take heart that there are others out there just like you. And a sincere, heartfelt "Thank you" to everyone who took the time to encourage me. Because it worked!

Barry, The Unwillling Cook

Here's is Barry's original letter and the comments that followed.

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It's great to know that the unwilling cook is now a person who enjoys cooking.

Wow! I am so impressed Barry! I only wish I could get my dad to do the same. Great attitude not to mention the impressive list of dishes. Well done. Niamh

How good is this? I am happy to hear about Barry's accomplishments because just the other day I was wondering how he was doing. Congratulations, Barry, we are all still rooting for you. Please continue to keep us posted on your kitchen exploits. And thanks, Heidi, for letting us all in on this great story.

Hey, Barry ... if ever you visit Brisbane, Australia, here's the deal: free accommodation and sightseeing in exchange for your wit and cooking accomplishments ... what say ye ???


Wow! Congratulations, Barry! Sounds like a moreish weekend... The corned beef hash sounds especially marvellous, and I'll have to try it. I second (third? fouth?) the "Barry needs a blog and/or a cookbook" idea, as well... :)


Hey Barry, why don't you start a food blog yourself? :) You write really well - I enjoyed reading your e-mail and comment, and lauged out loud at the first sentence of your recipe (read back, people!)! I know this may sound like a crazy idea, but it's not that hard at all, and you don't need to post every day or sth! It's like having a notebook/file in which you jot your experiments down. I tend to write a note on how the recipe went, and i find it helps for when i cook it next time, or if i'll cook it next time. blogging is a bit like that, but it's great that you share your notes with everyone. i've learnt lots from other people's comments and experiences with various recipes. in any case, happy cooking!

Isn't is great when a non-cook takes the bit between their teeth and gives it a go - and discovers it can be fun, creative, satisfying. Good on you, Barry. Move over Gordon Ramsay...

Go Barry! Is it the cooking that isn't "fun" yet, or is it the washing up? (I still don't like that part!)

Krista Jo

I can see a cookbook outta this. Barry's definitely got the writing skill to carry it off!

Bravo! I didn't leave a message on that first post b/c I came to it late. Am glad that all is working out so well. Enjoy the adventure!

Wow! There is no joy greater than seeing inspiration, Hats off to Barry for letting inspiration happen and wow to Heidi for sharing with Barry and with all of us.

Congrats Barry. You'll never be the odd one out at cooking the Christmas luncheon!

What a great story! I felt the same way when I left home and started cooking for myself. Congrats Barry. Best wishes from Seoul. :-)


I've thought of Barry from time to time, and I'm chuffed to hear that he took everyone's advice to heart. What a great story :D

That's awesome Barry!!! I know from my experience that patient, knowledgeable friends who love to cook, are a total encouragement to my cooking endeavors. It's fun cooking for people who totally look forward to it.


what a marvellous story. if barry has a fear of cookbooks, i recommend nigel slater's "appetite" and "the kitchen diaries" which really demystify cooking -- and also promote cooking -- and eating -- as a simple and effortless but vey rewardign activity. nice to meet you barry, and keep us informed!


It makes me proud to be part of the cooking community when I see how positive, helpful, and non-judgmental fellow foodies, chefs, and home cooks can be. Food taste best seasoned with generosity!

Yayyyyy! Way to go Barry!!! Congrats!

Congratulations Barry! What a nice piece of reading! I loved it! Sweet and inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. My advice: if you are not enjoying that much yet, don't you worry about that. The more you learn, the more fun you have. My confession: I've been cooking for years and I've never cooked a Crème Brulee!!!! :D Best wishes from Brazil, Rosana ps.: sorry about my poor English


I think he is on his way to "enjoying" it, as words like "beautiful, creamy" and "distinctive Rioja slipped down" escaped when describing the meal! Truly great story. Thank you, Barry, for bringing us "seasoned" cooks back to our memories of our own humble beginings, or at least, mine.


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