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Thursday, April 7, 2011

FOOD! Oh, glorious FOOD!

“I can't cook.”

“Oh, no, I'll buy something for the party. You don't want me to poison anyone, do you?”

“I don't know how to cook.”

“Where do you want to go eat?”

These are the things I said over and over for the first 33 years of my life. Truth be told, I was afraid to cook. I was afraid it wouldn't be good. I was afraid that what I made wouldn't look, smell, or taste like it was supposed to.

My paternal grandma is an amazing cook. She has a very old propane stove she has to light with a match – the same one she has had my whole life and longer. She doesn't have any fancy gadgets or machines to make it easy. She does it the same way she has done since the 1930s – by hand and from scratch. She makes everything by hand. Donuts, jelly, bread, (the world's best) macaroni and cheese, everything. Watching her when I was little, she made it look so easy, but also, there were a lot of steps involved. And a lot of work.

It is kind of intimidating to watch. To hear her tell it, it's as easy as breathing. But this is also the same woman who sits down with a pen and crossword puzzle for twenty minutes, maybe a half hour, and when she stands up, every space on it is filled with the proper letter. (I sent her the first crossword I ever completed on my own, at the age of 24.)

So easy? As easy as breathing? I think I need a second opinion...

My mom is a good cook. Mostly, my grandma taught her. When my dad was in the military, she lived with them. She makes a lot of the same stuff. Just not so much from scratch, and with the gadgets and machines. She does do a bang up job on the macaroni and cheese.

So, what of me? I have never had much interest. I am more of an outside child. I wanted out. I didn't want to be inside in the kitchen on a nice day, I wanted to be outside running, playing, climbing trees. If it was cold, I wanted to be inside, reading a book or imagining up my next story. I didn't want anything to do with anything domestic.

My first meal.
In August, at 33, I moved (again). I decided it was time to learn to cook.

In the months leading up to this move, I researched everything about cooking. I bought all kinds of gadgets and machines. I bought basic necessities. In the midst of all this, I kept wondering if I was just wasting my money.

Here's the thing. I was scared. SCARED. I had no clue what I was doing. I had no clue if I could do this. My go-to emotions are fear and self-doubt. And, I’m bad at math. All the measuring and dividing (when you cut recipes) terrified me. Oh, and I am not patient. Not at all.

But I forged on.

Going to the grocery store was a whole other adventure. I didn't know where anything was, beyond the cereal isle. I felt lost and confused every time I had to buy something new. I felt silly looking at the varieties of items with a blank stare on my face. I would spend at least an hour in the store every single time. This was not easy.

I wanted to cook smart, healthy, and cost-effective. It is hard to stay cost-effective when you don't have any basic ingredients. It seemed every recipe cost over $50 at the beginning. I didn't have flour. I didn't have sugar. I didn't have the proper kind of milk. I didn't have...

I didn't have anything to store this in. I didn't have Tupperware. I didn't know where to get Tupperware. I knew about Tupperware because my mom has it. I wanted the Tupperware she has. That is what I am familiar with. That is what I am comfortable with. Problem: her Tupperware is as old as I am.

Retro tupperware!
Ebay. I got on ebay and found retro Tupperware. I bought it.

As far as the food goes, it is coming along. I am learning. Everything I have made up to this point has been good, with the one exception – asparagus soup. I just think I don't know enough about spices yet.

I try very hard to stay away from boxes. I want my food to be as whole as possible. Healthy was one of my goals. And, besides, my grandma doesn't use boxes. Even the sweet stuff, like brownies, don't come from boxes. All homemade so far.

Peppermint-chocolate brownies.

There is a difference in the way my grandma and I cook. I have the gadgets. I have the machines. She, on the other hand, has her history and her knowledge. I call her from time to time and update her about what I am cooking. She shares stories and recipes with me. We have a bond now that we didn't have before. My one regret: not having her teach me when we lived near each other.

The fear is gone. I get a butterfly or two when I start a new recipe, but it is not overwhelming, and I have the faith that it can be done if I do what I am supposed to do.  I have found that I truly love to cook.  There is something amazing about homemade food.  Maybe it is the lack of processing.  Maybe it is the freshness.  But maybe, just maybe it's the love.  I think it is all three.


  1. I'm kind of a lazy cook, I've been cooking since I was about 10 and I'm good at it when I put in the effort but most of the time I'm lazy about it. I think homemade stuff tastes better, but it takes so long to make a loaf of bread but like 10 minutes to walk to the store and buy a loaf. Being vegan means I cook at home more and have to make stuff from scratch but generally if there's a box version I'm all over it (I guess it's good there aren't many boxed versions of things that are vegan)

  2. That's so cool that you and your grandmother can bond over this! I praise God every day for my husband because without him - my family would starve. I hate cooking.

    Good for you though!

    New follower from A-Z! Nice to meet you.

  3. I don't cook at all. My husband does the cooking and that is fine with me. I am known for my rather poor attempts at cooking. Life is just better when he cooks and it saves me having to do it. Of course, clean up is another matter. Great post. I will be here again.

  4. Great post about your journey with cooking!!!

    I love cooking, and I love eating more ;)

    Following you from A-Z Challenge!

  5. This sounds like me :) I'm also scared of cooking, which will have to change soon. Best of luck and thanks for sharing :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  6. Nice to meet you through the A-Z challenge! Hope to see you around!