My Favorite Words

July 5, 2010

There was a brief chat on Twitter the other day started by Gluten Free Girl & the Chef where Shauna asked the simple question of when did cooking became easier and more enjoyable for each of us. To follow that thread, she started a community post on the subject.

The more I thought about this question, the more I struggled to remember the exact moment when cooking became fun for me. It has been a gradual shift I suppose over the years, but how did I go from doing very little cooking and mostly dreading it to suddenly having a passion to be in the kitchen?

Lets back up. When I met my husband at the age of 19 (wow, 16 years ago), my cooking skills did not extend much further beyond Kraft Mac & Cheese or frozen pizza. My husband had a few more bits of knowledge so our meals for years went as follows….he would prepare the meat (usually grilled or fried), and I would prepare the side dishes (usually canned veggies and a pasta or rice mix from a box). I am seriously cringing at the moment remembering how many boxes of Rice-A-Roni we probably ate. We ate fast food more then I care to admit as well.

As the years went on, we moved away from everything fried (leaving Louisiana helped break that trend). I took over most of the cooking, but the processed, canned, and fast food items did not fade for quite awhile. In my late 20’s when my medical problems reached their peak, I was finally forced to take a hard look at what we ate and make serious changes. It took a few years for me to change habits. We would have good months, and then months where I just tossed my hands up and fell back on the quick and easy methods. I struggled through recipe after recipe, but over time I slowly started to build up a binder of favorites. I began to learn new skills and stock my kitchen with a few essential tools. The biggest key, I started to feel better more often then not and my energy to cook increased along with it.

Once I was consistently feeling better and had good habits in place that complimented cooking each night, a definite shift happened with my attitude of cooking. Instead of feeling obligated to cook in order to feel better, I started to unconsciously find more positive reasons to wander into the kitchen. I find that when I do not cook for a couple of days the feeling of relaxation and joy I experience in the kitchen the next time is amplified. I noticed this more and more each time, until suddenly I realized…hey, I really like cooking!! But what caused that shift?

I think probably the biggest motivator I find that pulls me into the kitchen no matter what is when the people I cook for make requests. I love when family invites us over for a function but then follows it up immediately with a dish request from my ‘keeper’ binder. Or when my husband tries a new recipe and after a single bite mumbles through a full mouth “Keeper!”. I just love making folks happy through food, plain and simple.

(That is my ‘Keeper’ recipe binder)

As much as I cook because that is how I physically feel better, bringing others happiness is my true motivation that takes me back to the stove over and over. I think when my husband and I started this journey it felt more like a prison sentence. Our favorite foods all had pictures and labels and ingredient lists comparable to War & Peace. Now, I crave the simple and fresh foods. A piece of grilled asparagus with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. The taste is alive, awake and bursting. The thought of eating a canned vegetable now makes me want to hide in a hole. The second I taste something artificially flavored the taste buds fire off unpleasant warning signals. My mind and body are now working together when it comes to food, it is such a great place to be.

So I might have started cooking because it was a requirement for me to survive, but now I cook because I love it. I keep returning to the kitchen to hear my favorite words……. “Its a keeper!”. If anyone out there struggles with cooking, just keep going. If I can not only learn to cook but to thoroughly enjoy the activity, anyone can. Find a positive motivation to get in the kitchen and embrace it!

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