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September 23, 2011 / beatricebunny

Introduction

My husband  and I watch a reality show on the Food Network called The Worst Cooks in America. I love this show. I love watching people gain confidence, and their excitement when they realize that cooking is something you can LEARN is palpable.   In every season, at least one person gets ousted because they don’t understand that cooking is a skill. Either they were convinced that the “rules” of cooking didn’t apply to them or they couldn’t grasp that cooking is a SKILL that needs to be developed. I love the show for highlighting the skill aspect, and I empathize with the contestants as they make many of the mistakes that I made.

I struggle sometimes to express why cooking is so important to me. It’s primal. Feeding myself (in a healthy way) is part of caring for myself – something I have a history of not being very good at. My senior year in college, I really started cooking FOR ME. I stopped trying to impress others with it. I stopped cooking to others’ taste and started making the rich, spicy, over-the-top dishes I love. Realizing that I could do this for myself and not in service of others was life changing.

In so many ways, modern life doesn’t give an opportunity to simply succeed or fail at something, and I need that feedback. I consider poor Sisyphus the most cursed man in mythology. I’m lucky that my job is project based. I complete a project, and I move on. Even so, I do basically the same thing project after project. Cooking gives me that satisfaction. I cook. It comes out good or it comes out bad. I move on. Not only do I get to succeed, but I also get to fail with fairly limited consequences. The soup sucks? I won’t make it again. I burned the bread? No bread with breakfast. It’s so important to have a safe place to fail.

As I continue to recover from my ED, cooking becomes more important. I can make what I want to eat. I can establish boundaries about what I like, what goes on my plate and in my body. I can eat when I want or need to and not based on some external clock.

Also, cooking connects me to my home in such a tangible way. I travel so much that it’s easy to start feeling like a guest in my own home. But when I get home, and I go to the kitchen and there are the pots I chose and the knives I care for, it helps. When I start cooking in the kitchen, suddenly I am HOME. I know where everything is, and I am creating something in my own space.

Cooking connects me to the physical world.  You have to be present in your body and in your space to cook.  Chemistry happens, things change colors, flavors blend, noodles soften, water boils.  You stand there in the kitchen and pay attention to the cues, or you are not cooking.  Most recipes today give explicit times (I ate a frozen breakfast earlier this week that had me heat it for 18 seconds), but these times are a recommendation.  They vary based on your altitude, the differences in the food, your appliances, your pots and pans.  I have one skillet where everything has to be stirred twice as often to keep it from sticking.  No idea why, it’s just the way that skillet works.  I can’t live in my head and cook successfully.  It doesn’t happen.  Cooing requires that you be patient, not hover, not rush, but it also requires that you be PRESENT.

Cooking matters deeply to me. It’s a visceral part of who I am as a creative, adult human being who can express and care for herself.

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