Food For Thought

I spent several hours from morning into early afternoon cooking. For some, cooking is a chore to be done to provide nourishment. For me, cooking is so much more.

My cooking has evolved throughout my nineteen years of marriage. Even though I grew up in a family that valued good food, my mother was not the most patient teacher when I asked her to teach me how to cook during the year that my husband and I were engaged to be married. After I got married I followed the recipes from friends and cookbooks given to me as bridal shower gifts. I frequently called my brother who had recently graduated from culinary school and was working as a chef for what I called a “culinary consult”. I also called my grandmother. My grandmother made the most beautiful lemon meringue pies. I thought since I’d watched her make those pies since I was a little girl that I could make one tool. The only time I attempted to make a lemon meringue pie, I ended up calling my grandmother in tears because the meringue fell. She just laughed and asked, “Well honey what did you do to it”. I realized then that I was not a baker and should stick to savory meals.

Over the years my cooking abilities have expanded from “I hope I get this right” to “I can do this dish”. My husband and I enjoy cooking together. We watch cooking shows and consult each other with ideas for meals. I grew up in a Sicilian family watching the women in the family cook. He grew up in a Scandinavian family watching the men in the family cook. With our different back grounds, we’re a perfect match in the kitchen and we work well together.

In the years since I’ve proclaimed myself as a writer, I’ve learned that engaging in other creative activities besides writing actually enhances creativity. Although I’ve returned to my cross stitch after a fourteen year hiatus and I occasionally enjoy my anatomy coloring book, cooking is my favorite creative outlet. There’s much to be said about the acts of planning a meal, refining a recipe, chopping, measuring, sautéeing, stirring, simmering and tasting. It requires focus and concentration and provides a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when the meal turns out delicious. Sometimes when life is stressful, focusing on a cooking a meal is a therapeutic distraction within itself.

Last year my husband gave me a compliment that I never forgot. I was on the phone complaining to him in the craft store about an assignment that our son had for his English class. He had to write poems and design a homemade notebook to put the poems in. It had been a busy week for the family and I just didn’t have it in me to help him design a notebook. My husband said, “Let me deal with this. You have the ability to think on the fly in the kitchen, not in a craft store”. Some women would have considered that a sexist remark. Not me. I knew exactly what he meant and because of that, whenever I look at a difficulty recipe and wonder if I can pull it off, I remember what he said and know that I can.

As a third generation American born Sicilian, I grew up knowing that a family meal was a sacred thing and the person who cooked the meal, cooked it out of love. I have carried those beliefs into my own kitchen and those that I cook for will always get my best.

Some weeks I only really have time to cook on the fly and get a meal on the table quickly because everyone is busy but other weeks I do have the time to try new recipes and plan different meals. Last week was an emotional and eventful week for our family and I’ve been running around for days. Despite my need to sit on the couch and relax, today I decided to cook. I approached my stove at nine o’clock this morning. In the course of a few hours I had made a long over due pot of sauce for a friend, breakfast sandwiches for my family, I put a brisket in the slow cooker and made a batch of my grandmother’s chicken soup. I was focused, organized and moved easily from one meal to the next. I also managed to jot down notes for this post. Everything I cooked today was successful and I am pleased. I finally did get the chance to relax and watch my favorite football team play their home opener. Oh and by the way, I don’t do dishes.

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