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Why cook?

January 9, 2011

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, my relationship to food, that is.  And more specifically, my relationship to cooking.  I’ve been wanting to write about it, and got even more inspired when my friend Stephanie recently wrote about her own food-love.

The last time she visited, as I stood over the stove cooking some pears, apples and honey for a dessert pizza, my mother in law said to me, “Something is going to come from all this cooking.”  She’s said things like this before, and I know she means someday I’ll cook professionally, or be a baker, or some other such lofty thing.  And it’s nice that she’s encouraging and that she thinks my stuff is that good.  I mean, it’s all nice.

But the thing is, the something that will come from my learning to cook is already happening.  I cook to nourish the bodies and the hearts of my beautiful family and friends.   I don’t have any grand culinary goals, I don’t plan on going to school or becoming a chef or entering the competitive world of cooking.  I just like to feed my family the absolute best combination of ingredients, prepared in the most careful way, to the best of my ability.  It’s how I express myself, how I show them my love and commitment, how I mom.

When my kids are adults, it will be fitting for most of their memories of childhood to involve my blue floral apron, the warm scent of something baking, my rough hands from constant washing, their dad rubbing his belly appreciatively.  When I think of family, those things come to my mind.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the kids and how they might be when they are grown, how they might relate to one another and to us.  I want them to have the healthiest relationship to food that they can.  Richie and I both struggle to make consistently good choices; neither of us had a lot of experience growing up with all-natural, fresh foods, and we’ve had to teach ourselves a lot about nutrition over the years.  We are the kind of parents who feed the children homemade, healthy snacks and meals and then have a candy-chips binge after the kids are in bed.  We’ve been working hard to curb that behavior, and it had gotten exponentially better/easier, but it’s still there.  Now, we are learning to not have guilty feelings over that behavior, appreciate that we have to take responsibility for it, and changing it a little at a time.  And that’s a positive thing.  But, I’d love for the kids to have a healthy understanding of the notions of “portion-size,” “treats,” and “sometimes foods” that I’m only just starting to gain as an adult.

I also really want to kids to appreciate growing, processing, cooking and storing their own food.  I like the idea of them really knowing how to care for themselves, and involving themselves as much as possible in their own survival.  Thoughtful, capable children who care about their environment and their health, and who enjoy those things to the maximum, is the ultimate goal.  I mean, can you really ask for more than that in life?

So, that’s why I cook, you see.  For my family, for my kids, for myself,  for our lives.  And learning how to parent and wife and cook in the healthiest and happiest ways possible makes me feel fulfilled… and full!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. onioncloute permalink
    January 9, 2011 6:29 PM

    I love this post! I’m so glad my confessions inspired you, as you regularly inspire me. I’ve happily added you to the people section of my blog. xo

  2. January 10, 2011 10:48 AM

    Your kids are going to have awesome relationships with food. I’m convinced. I grew up with a health conscious dad, and I remember plenty of times when I wished we could just ORDER a pizza instead of having to make our own, and I didn’t understand why we ALWAYS had to have wheat bread and water instead of more exciting alternatives — and I longed for Mountain Dew, Ring Dings, and Cap’N Crunch many, many times — but, in retrospect, I’m glad he planted those seeds of good eatin.’ It’s made me into a deeply picky person, but at least I’m discerning!

    As someone who has toiled in restaurant kitchens, may I make a suggestion? 🙂

    Um. Ignore R’s mom. DON’T turn your love for cooking into a profession. I’m only NOW beginning to enjoy working with food again. People are happy with crap, and mediocrity reigns in most large-scale dining establishments. People want bland menu items which reek of familiarity. Or, at least, that’s the case here in the Star City, sorry to say. You’ve managed this far in life without working in a restaurant — AVOID IT. The work is hellish, and the hours are unforgiving and unflexible– even if you own your own joint. Okay, *especially* if you own your own joint. And I don’t see the economy improving. It’s a precarious profession, whether you own your own place or are a poor, bedraggled waitress.

    I guess I’ll tell you what I told my Stepmom (who is a FABULOUS cook, and who briefly considered opening a Pho shop in the D.C. area): you are TOO GOOD for the general public. I think that their wretched and petty demands would probably remove some of the joy for you, and you wouldn’t have as much time to research recipes, try things out, and experiment in your own kitchen with your family. Screw that!

  3. January 10, 2011 12:59 PM

    ooh ooh ooh. cooking to manufacture some career versus to nourish your family … I see it like this: you could build up a very tall building, and see what kind of view you could get from some great height. or you could spend your time filling in every little space between bricks, and make one strong-ass foundation, and know you’ve created a safe place to be, and to keep your and yours.

  4. January 10, 2011 2:49 PM

    You’re all lovely, ladies, and oh so encouraging. So happy that I’ve built up such a strong foundation of internet/real life friends. That was a smart move, earlier-self.

    I’m really not good enough to pursue an actual future in cooking professionally, and I’m not saying that in a self-deprecating way. It’s just true- I’m not consistent, I have almost no technique, and I like stuff a certain way and I’m not willing to compromise. I mean, if I want to use butter instead of oil, I’m doing it. I just am. Even if the results are disastrous. Like you said, soft and pointy, I like experimenting waaay too much.

    Also, and this is the confession part, but, I really am cooking for Richie, pretty much. I mean, he’s my main audience. And I really don’t think I could ever get the quality of feedback I get from him from the general public. Our relationship has a real foundation in food, from our roots in mutual snacking habits to the support we show each other, now, in making good choices. When the pizza dough rises nicely, when the cookies are moist, when the cinnamon rolls are legit, something good happens between us. I guess he’s proud of me, of my creativity. Cooking just adds another layer of joy to my marriage that I would never give up. Who knew Richie was the kind of guy who wanted a good hostess for a wife? 😉

    There’s something that MIL doesn’t totally understand, as well, and that’s the notion of pouring love into your cooking. Everything from preparation to presentation matters to me because I like saying to my family “You are worth this careful consideration.” I mean, there are a million ways to do that. Cooking is just one of my ways.


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