Cooking is an act of love. And being that I am all about loving myself these days, I cook for myself whenever I get the chance.
I have always enjoyed eating and come from a family who shaped that. While we sometimes sat down to bowls of cereal growing up–in a hectic rush to get five children to school–most of the time we sat down to bacon and eggs, or biscuits and gravy, or omelets, or pancakes, french toast, or crepes. Cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls. Roasts, casseroles, lasagna, steak and potatoes, hamburgers, tacos, stir-fries. These are just some of the main courses I grew up with. I consider myself fortunate to have a family that loves food. It has given me a strong foundation for what I now consider one of my favorite ways to spend time with myself. Cooking is my therapy.
I am extremely grateful that food is a major part of my background, and I can see now that my love for food blurred my senses when I met a guy in college who was going to culinary school. He was an amazing cook. He learned from the best, had a natural sense for combining ingredients, and put a lot of energy into his cooking. I mistook it all for love. I admired coming home to the smell of garlic and onions and I fancied the variety of meals this guy cooked for me over the years. I applauded his ability to adapt his cooking to my dietary needs when I went through a period of severe food-allergies. I doted over the good food so much that it kept me from being honest about the toxic relationship we were in. There were other factors at play, of course, but food was a big part of my blindness. In the end, I became a better cook and learned a lot of tricks in the kitchen from of him, but more importantly, I learned that when you eat food not made out of love, that it can poison you. So now, I cook for myself.
Loving myself has been a conscious goal of mine for the last year and a half. That may not seem like a lot of time, coming from a nearly-30-year-old, but deciding to love myself was a conscionable and life-changing moment in my life. To be happy was my New Year’s Resolution for 2015, and now my life-long goal. This resolution set into motion my leaving that toxic relationship. Once I was out on my own, with full control over my life again, (including a brief stint beach-bumming it in Hermosa Beach, San Diego, and the Dominican Republic for a summer, where I also enjoyed cooking for family and friends) I realized how therapeutic it was for me to come home after a long stressful day, or even a wonderfully relaxing day, and spend a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking something tasty, something that would soothe my hunger and my soul. Since I was cooking for one, I would make dishes that kept well as left-overs. I would cook two nights a week, at least, and I would enjoy those dishes for the entire week, alternating between meals, sometimes mixing it up with a quick salad, or put a twist on something by frying an egg to put on top: always the perfect way to make leftovers taste new again. I also love to take leftovers from restaurants and mix them with fresh ingredients to make them into something new and exciting.
Cooking has helped me heal. It makes me feel powerful and relaxed at the same time (just like good sex). When I stand in the kitchen with my knife in hand and some cloves of garlic or green beans or potatoes on my cutting board, I know I’m doing something good for myself. I take my time to carefully prep all of the ingredients with the attention to detail and patience some women exercise to apply their makeup before a date. I love to put on music and dance around as I prepare my dish. I move to a rhythm in the kitchen that makes my heart feel whole and my mouth water in anticipation of the hearty meal. Finally, I sit down to enjoy my work, my art, my joy.
Cooking proves to me that every situation can be improved. That I can make the most out of what I have. That things change. That time heals. That patience goes a long way. That life is good.