A Return to Cooking

FullSizeRender-2Over the last six months I have placed serious, focused attention on taking better care of myself. A huge part of this has been a long-needed return to daily exercise. More on this in future posts, but today my focus is on nutrition and, more specifically, cooking meals at home.

My love of cooking is long-standing. I was blessed with two grandmothers who could prepare delicious feasts, almost magically, for large family gatherings. Only now do I appreciate what an undertaking each of those meals was for them. What a true expression of love. I have parents who, despite both working outside of the home, managed to prepare a home-cooked meal for our family almost every night. My mom– her famous lasagna or hamburger pie; my dad his skillet experiments (or hot dogs and peas :). Only now do I understand the effort and planning that required, day-in and day-out.

My own interest in cooking and baking started in middle school. A friend and I baked cookies and planned a future baking company. Another friend and I prepared a “cooking show” video outlining the process needed to create lefse (a traditional Norwegian staple).

In high school I asked my Grandma K to write down some of her famous recipes so that I could attempt to recreate them. In usual fashion, she outdid herself — I have a now treasured collection of recipes in her own handwriting. Little did I know then how much I would one day miss her — both her unconditional love and the food that channeled it.

College is a blur, but I didn’t cook much. The dorms weren’t great for cooking, nor the cafeteria for my waistline, but I wouldn’t trade the meals shared there with great friends for anything.

Contrary to expectations, medical school actually brought cooking back to me. A dear friend and I shared an apartment all four years. From her I learned about the art of vegetarian cooking and the wonder that is Indian food.

No, it was not medical school that led me to lose my love of cooking. Residency earns that distinction. 30 hour shifts followed by microwave popcorn and sleep. More take-out than I care to remember. The joy of cooking was gone. It felt more like a chore for which I simply could not muster up the energy.

Slowly, but surely, my love of cooking has found its way back over the last eight years. First, out of love for my child, I experimented with home-made baby food and simple healthy meals as he grew. I started to favor Trader Joe’s over take-out.

But, I must admit that it was not until the last few months that cooking has again become something I look forward to instead of a simple necessity. For this, I credit my fabulous wellness group, growing concern about the ingredients in processed foods, and an ever increasing desire to serve as a role-model for my son. We grow simple plants like tomatoes and herbs in the hopes that he will begin to appreciate where food comes from. I experiment with a variety of ingredients in order to expand his palate and help him learn that healthy food can be delicious. And, I involve him in the food preparation, with the goal that he grows into a man who is comfortable in the kitchen.

I now spend a couple of hours each weekend planning and prepping our meals for the week. This past Sunday I was once again reminded that following a well-written recipe can be an almost meditative process— a peaceful way to start the week or end the day. I felt the warmth and satisfaction of a dish that turned out better than expected. The joy of knowing that we were placing delicious and healthy food into our bodies.

I may not be preparing a feast for twenty guests. Still, I think my Grandmas would be proud.

4 thoughts on “A Return to Cooking

  1. I found this post inspirational. I am just finishing my PhD–and I have been living on frozen dinners from the Grocery Outlet and Trader Joe’s for years now. Ugh! I am looking forward to reinvigorating my relationship with cooking. I used to love to cook healthy meals, and I miss feeling enthusiastic about cooking. I totally hear you about microwave popcorn, too. Just when did that happen in the last five years? When did it happen that I accepted that a bag of microwave popcorn constituted a meal? Thanks for your blog article!!! It makes me feel that I am not alone and that eventually I will get back to healthy cooking and eating:)

  2. I remember those medical school days, and GREATLY enjoying the meals we shared. Thanks for sharing this post. I, too, have been thinking about meals, and how we could eat more at home while also having variety. I’ve recently been considering one of the services that would do the planning, shopping/delivery of fresh foods, and then I would do the prep (still about 45 minutes of the day). Thinking about it has reminded me to think about my ultimate goals and which parts of cooking I enjoy the most, as well as being realistic about what’s possible in my current work/life season (not asking myself to do it all!).

    • Thanks, Hillary! I SO enjoyed all of those wonderful meals at your house (and miss my ralking partner :)! I have a couple of friends who have had good luck with a few of the meal services that deliver healthy foods. Hope one works out for you.

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s