I only really learned to cook about ten years ago. Sure, I could cook a few things from memory and follow a recipe for whatever else, but I really didn't understand cooking. I would have been hard-pressed to just throw together any sort of interesting meal from what I had on hand. Plus, although I didn't mind cooking, there were plenty of other things I would rather have been doing: reading, talking on the phone, watching endless re-runs of Law and Order.
Really, I'd still probably rather do something else, but these days, with a kid and everything, I don't really have the option of just doing any old thing and not making dinner. That's probably when I began to really like cooking--when it became as aspect of parenting. And more to the point, when it became a break from direct parenting. I could still take care of him but he didn't have to be actually touching me for awhile. The choice was watch the kid for for the tenth hour in a row or make dinner. Dinner won every time. And it time, it became a kind of break for me. Sometimes, cooking a meal was the only creative thing I did all day.
Since then, I've been doing some real cooking. Hard-core mama cooking. I even make my own vegetable stock. I never thought I'd do such a thing, but there it is. I save vegetable trimmings in the freezer and then use them along with a stock recipe. Well, I sort of follow the recipe. It almost always turns out at least fine. A word of advice, though: don't use carrot greens. They made that batch bitter city. It's still in my freezer, actually, if you'd like to stop by and get it. Also, I tried to save the odds and ends in the fridge, but if you don't use them fast enough, they turn into a nasty green mess that'll break your heart.
Tonight I made a mild stock for soup I'll be making tomorrow. I used vegetable trimmings plus two onions, two carrots, a half a bunch of celery, two green onions, half a zucchini, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of salt, and a handful of parsley. I saute the onion a bit in a little olive oil, then add the veggies and water. Usually in the neighborhood of 4 quarts. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer about 40 minutes. I like to drain it immediately so it doesn't get a blech-y. I'm pretty sure that's the technical term.