How Cooking Changed My Life

DSCN0430.JPGI’m no stranger to home cooked meals. Growing up poor in a hollow – pronounced holler – in West Virginia didn’t allow for too many opportunities to dine out. I do remember some infrequent trips for fast food and eating at restaurants when we had to travel to other churches, but mostly I was stuck with home-made food.

I say stuck because my mother, bless her heart, just didn’t seem interested in making food everyone liked. Now I should admit that I was and still am somewhat of a picky eater. This is where R.J. is saying “Somewhat?!”. So maybe I’m a super picky eater or maybe it’s quirky. I’ve got this thing about wet and soggy food. I also never cared much for leftovers – a cardinal sin for poor families.

So maybe my mother was justified in her irritation and comments about me going to see what the neighbors were having. Of course I think I would have preferred that, but she never let me go.

I did pick up a few things from her along the way about cooking, but there was never any formal lessons. My grandmothers taught me how to bake and that I loved to do from the very start. It opens up a whole word of wondrous concoctions that most people love. Plus there’s something I find soothing about the preciseness of all the measuring.

I didn’t get into cooking that way until recently. It always seemed like such a waste because then there was the cleanup afterward. And leftovers, yuck and boring! Plus it’s a lot of work, at least I always thought so.

So what changed?

First, I learned about all the extra crap and chemicals the food manufacturers put in most foods. It was a real eye-opener when I learned that my powdered coffee creamers’ main ingredient was corn syrup. That still shocks me a little. Also that all those artificial sweeteners are made to be hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Why? So we forget that fruit is naturally sweet and we can crave Ho Hos and other sugar laden products?

Second, I actually started making meals regularly and I found recipes that were flavorful and easy to make. Cooking a healthy, delicious meal does not have to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming. One of my favorite things to do is make a whole meal in one pan.

Oh, and this is just a side note, but did you know you can make your own taco seasoning? Blew my mind the first time I made it! It tastes so much better than the crap you get in the little packets, it’s cheaper, and healthier.

Third, food turns out better when I’m in a good mood. I always knew this when I baked, but it turns out it’s the same way for cooking. If I’m mad, sad, irritated, or just in a hurry the food only turns out so-so at best or downright inedible at worst.

Forth, meal planning is essential! If I don’t at least think about what I want to make for dinner that morning or even the day before, chances are it’s not going to turn out very well. It also takes the stress out of it when the time comes to actually do the cooking.

I get this sense of empowerment now that I know without a doubt that I can make a good, healthy meal. Something that everyone will eat and enjoy. Because, let’s face it, if it’s healthy but doesn’t taste good, no one’s going to want to eat it a second time. And that means that healthy habits will not be formed.

I still have a long way to go, but at least now I have come to appreciate a good home cooked meal. And I’ve made peace with leftovers. Turns out that if you really like it the first time it’s not all that hard to eat it the next day.

Who knew?



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