I’ve always had a weird relationship with cooking. When I was a kid, there wasn’t much of a fuss about meals; the only thing I can really remember my mom spending much time preparing for us was pinto beans. These were a staple in my house, and I remember sitting with her while she sorted through the bags of cheap beans she bought because they’d be full of teeny little rocks that we needed to clean out so they wouldn’t break our teeth. Sadly, I hated pinto beans as a kid, so I hated the process of cleaning the beans.
The rest of our meals were made fast and cheap, with my mom – who was usually either working full time or going to school full time – choosing the meals that were easy to make and fast.
My grandmother cooked, but I didn’t see her very often and with the exception of Christmas dinner I can’t remember anything about what she cooked, which is odd. I can picture the kitchen clear as day, and I remember how she made my grandfather liverwurst sandwiches for lunch with the carefully arranged single leaf of lettuce with a pickle on it.
But I’ve always liked cooking. In my very early twenties, I cooked for my roommate and myself pretty regularly, until the urge to go to the bar was stronger than the urge to cook (then my dinners descended into eating a bag of pretzels at the bar). Once I got sober I had a brief phase where we did all our shopping at Whole Foods (at the time it was our local store and we had what felt like a ton of money since we didn’t spend it all on booze and drugs) and I cooked all the time. But then I started seeing a nutritionist and I wasn’t eating the same stuff that Charlie wanted to eat, and that coupled with the fact that I was working odd hours and didn’t eat dinner until 10pm most days meant that cooking virtually disappeared from our lives.
Remember last fall when I announced we were giving up family dinner? Yeah, about that. That totally didn’t work out for our family. Silly me. :) Instead, as part of my continued emphasis on healthy eating and living, I’ve gone the totally opposite direction and am now full on cooking at least four nights a week (the rest of the nights Charlie and my mom each take turns cooking unless we break down and get something from the Chipolte that opened up nearby), and making a meal plan and doing careful grocery shopping. You know, like a boss. Heh.
So I’ve been exploring some new recipes and getting brave. I even finally invested in a real iron skillet and I won a good knife that really works (how much easier is cooking when you have a good knife, am I right?) from a friend’s blog. I’ve successfully made what Charlie calls “restaurant quality” meals such as Chicken Tikka Masala (kind of a pain, but delish), shrimp curry, chicken stuffed with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes (in that recipe I replaced the basil with the tomatoes). There were a bunch of less successful dinners too, but I’m learning as I go. We have some issues that I haven’t quite figured out how to resolve; my mother and I love salmon and steak, for instance, but Charlie doesn’t, so we have to find a workaround without me cooking two dinners.
I remember hearing Michael Pollan being interviewed on NPR and saying how important it is to do most of your grocery shopping on the outside aisles of the grocery store, from the produce section, eggs and dairy, and meat. I’ve become that person, for the most part (Tori still loves the crappy mac and cheese, so we go into the center aisles sometimes, plus the taco shells are there). I’m not sure we follow his main suggestion (“eat food, not too much, mostly plants”), but we’re getting there.
I will say this: one of the reasons cooking and grocery shopping has become easier is because I’ve gotten better at managing my time. I’ve been spending far, far less time on social media lately. I’ve found myself shutting down Twitter during the day while I work, and I have an alert that tells me when I spend more than an hour on Facebook each day (yes, I need an alert, heh). This means that I’m getting my work done more quickly (and frankly, it’s better work) so I’ve had time to do that cooking – and even better, I’m not working in the evenings any more. In fact, I haven’t even unhooked my laptop from my dual monitor system at my desk in the evenings; if I want to get online I just my phone or the iPad mini my friends bought me for my birthday. More and more, I’m doing just one thing at a time. It’s lovely.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how this stuff dominoes? You start making the decision to take care of yourself in one area, and then it spreads throughout your life. I don’t know if this phase will last forever, but hey: I’m happy now, and our family is working.
This post is a long, long road to saying this: I might start sharing my attempts at cooking here when I try new recipes. I hope you’ll find them enjoyable and I’ll attempt to make it entertaining. Don’t expect anything like those other cooking blogs; my photos will suck and there will probably be cursing. Because it’s still me.
Anyway, thanks for reading. And I’m off to start cleaning up the yard. Hell yeah.