It's easier than you think! What should we try that assume is too hard?

We all know someone who says something like “Calculus? Oh, I do that in my head while I’m giving improvised violin recitals. You should try it.” Belittling arrogant humblebrags. That’s NOT what this is. This is about unlocking some skills, about realising how easy it is to do things we’ve been falsely led to believe are too much hassle.

I make my own bread. Lots of people think it’s too much hassle, takes too long, takes more practice than they can be bothered with. Well, OK, from beginning to end, yes, it takes hours, but your own involvement is simple and minimal. It’s almost all just waiting. I can walk you through it, if you like.

What else are we all missing? What else has a needless reputation for difficulty? What do you do that somehow impresses people, but which to you is no more impressive than being able to ride a bike?

I make a consistent long-term profit gambling. It’s all just a matter of taking casino and bookmaker offers that have a +EV, playing perfect strategy on table games; apart from poker, which I don’t play, they can all be easily learned; and low overround bets on sports (and the overround can be easily calculated, no sports knowledge needed)

People think making bread is hard? Isn’t it just dumping some ingredients into a bread maker and waiting?

Good one. I had a boss years ago who told me - a total non gambler - the rules of what overround was permitted for UK bookies, and therefore how to spot strangely long odds. More sports knowledge needed of course, but as sports was his thing, he could spot an unlikely looking price on a fairly obscure team/horse buried a long way down the list, made a tidy long-term profit.

I am not going to bite…

Making pizza from scratch is so easy, I could live on it.

You know what’s no more impressive than riding a bike? Riding a bike. A lot of people are impressed when they find out that I commute by bicycle, and sometimes even say things like “I wish I could do that”. You can. Seriously, I’m about the least athletic person you’ll ever meet. If I can do it, everyone can.

In order of increasing difficulty, from “stupid easy and quick with a few easily-learned basic skills” to “requires some study and practice but is nowhere near the arcane magical art that many people think”:

  1. Mending clothes

  2. Altering clothes

  3. Making clothes

I don’t know why people think Russian is hard to learn. As far as languages go, it’s dead easy—there are lots of rules, but they’re all very regular. Latin and Czech, on the other hand, are nightmares—far more complicated and extremely arbitrary.

Simple car maintenance. Like changing the oil, filters, belts, hoses, etc. The kind of thing that a lot of people used to do on their own.

A person with some average mechanical skills and tools who used to do these sort of things pops the hood on a newer car and all you see is a plastic engine shroud. Can’t even tell where things are or what they look like. Closes hood and takes it back to the shop. There is a reason for these engine covers and that is to convince you that you cannot work on your own car any more. Take the plastic cover off and you see a more familiar looking engine. If anything, modern car engines are even more plug-and-play than they used to be. Nobody rebuilds a carburetor anymore, they don’t exist. Plug wires too have mostly disappeared in favor of coil-on-plug designs. Wheel bearings are no longer packed with grease, they are sealed units that you unbolt and bolt in the new one. The real mechanical knowledge you need now is identifying the problem or part. But after you have identified the issue, it is all plug-and-play.

Plastic engine covers are a great profit engine for car repair and dealerships. Open the hood, take one look, “Nope!” Back to the dealer.

Sorry, it’s not a gotcha. I just never knew that people thought making bread was hard.

Before the widespread use of breadmaking machines, yes, many people (incorrectly) thought that making bread was a difficult art, and many people still think that about making bread “by hand”, that is, without a machine.

I make bread without a machine and it impresses the heck out of a lot of people who don’t know any better. (It also tastes better than most machine-made bread.)

That’s encouraging. “I love to cook but anything floury is not for me” seems pretty common in my experience.

Yes, this, exactly this. “Ah, but I haven’t got a bread maker” is not an uncommon response to the suggestion that bread might be makable.

Good point. I’m much happier to rummage around and do things to my 30 year old van than my 8 year old (plastic shrouded) car. I was reduced to having only 3rd, 4th and reverse at the start of a long journey in the van; had a hunt around, bolted the linkages back together, drove on across Europe. I’d have had the car towed home.

Many people think that cooking almost anything from scratch is “difficult”, because they really know little or nothing about cooking. They may not even have the vaguest idea as to the process if it’s not printed on a jar of something they got from the store.

Case in point: It takes about 30 seconds to make homemade whipped cream, and only a few minutes to make homemade butter. But people have never thought about the process or how they could do it at home–these are things they buy pre-made, so they assume some sort of elaborate process is involved.

You know what else is incredibly easy? Chicken stock. Ten times better than any stock you can buy. I make about a gallon and half from one chicken’s bones, some onions and carrots and celery. Freeze it up in quart containers. I don’t know how people make soup or brown sauce or many other things, without it.

Speaking as someone who made my own bread for years, making bread is far more arduous. It isn’t hard but there are strenuous messy parts, and you do have to be around for about half a day, at the right times.

A summer I lived on a farm, I churned about 200 lbs of butter (they only made butter in the summer as grass butter tastes better than hay butter). There is a trick to making butter – the temperature has to be within about a 5 degrees range, otherwise it won’t churn up right. Needs a dairy thermometer. If the temp is right it is a quick process.

Cutting hair. Most people would never dare to pick up those scissors for the first time because ZOMG what if I get it WRONG! My friend will KILL me!

Actually a bob, trim, or short back and sides is incredibly straightforward, as long as you’re not trying for anything fancy. I cut everyone’s hair in my family despite having some of the worst manual dexterity known to mankind.

To be fair, technically speaking, making bread isn’t cooking, it’s baking.

As I’ve had it explained to me, on several occasions – cooking is art, baking is science. In cooking, you can play with proportions, change ingredients, etc., and while you may wind up with something unpalatable, it’s harder to flat-out ruin something.

In baking, on the the other hand, you’re often seeking to cause a chemical reaction (such as leavening), and that reaction depends on the proportions of your ingredients (and the process itself) being just right. Get those wrong (or err when you’re trying to ad-lib in a baking recipe), and it’s more possible to wind up with something that simply fails.

Assuming Yorkshire Pudding comes from Yorkshire, and therefore enjoys all the benefits of Yorkshire weather, there are going to be quite a few days when he/she is going to be stuck indoors for half a day.

It applies to most of the UK, to be fair. I’ve already marked Friday down for making sourdough.