For many years I had to choke down whatever I made for dinner. It’s not that I was a bad cook, it’s just that… well ok, I was a bad cook. I was the pathetic family member who always brought flowers as my contribution to the Thanksgiving meal. It was not good.
A few years ago I quit a job where I was unhappy and I decided to wait for a while before I looked for work. I had enough money saved up and I was feeling very burnt out. It ended up being a fantastic time. I set a few reasonable goals for myself for my unemployment. I didn’t want to try to do too many things, so I kept it simple. One thing was to learn to cook. I had no grand illusions that I’d become a master chef; I just wanted to make food that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve to guests, and most importantly, that I wouldn’t mind eating myself. And I succeeded! The meals I make aren’t fancy, but they get the job done.
Since taking a leave of absence last fall, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about food. I’ve learned more about “real” food versus “imitation” food (like the difference between the bread you make yourself at home and the bread you buy in the grocery store – have you ever read that ingredient list?) I’ve also learned about various chemicals and other unnatural ingredients in food. Since then, I’ve been trying to eat more “real” food. I’ve cut down on chicken and fish (I’d already eliminated red meat, and I never ate pork.) I switched from canned beans to dry beans. When I do eat chicken, it’s as antibiotic-free as possible. I eat a lot more vegetables. I eat very few processed foods (and I’m trying to get those out of my diet altogether.) I figure if I’m going to see doctors and take various medications, I should make sure my diet isn’t ruining all my hard work!
Putting those two things together, I’m actually eating pretty decently now! I can’t imagine how I would have handled my new gluten-free diet if I hadn’t learned to cook. And I feel better when I eat healthier, “real” foods. None of this is easy. I won’t pretend I wouldn’t love to have a frozen dinner occasionally; but then, that’s why I don’t keep that stuff in the house. I won’t pretend my willpower is that good. If it was here, I’d eat it. Still, I’m going to try to focus instead on my big accomplishments: cooking tasty, healthy meals. When I didn’t feel well the other day, I was able to put together something easy and healthy. Today I felt decent, so I made the pretty quinoa and bean dish in the picture. It wasn’t all that hard, but I’m sure I would have messed it up a few years ago. It took a lot of practice and effort, but today I was able to make this dish for the first time and have a light, healthy, filling meal.
So to all of you who are working on your diets, I offer you my encouragement. It can be a tough road, but it’s very worthwhile. If you have a setback, just accept it and then move forward again. It’s completely worth it. Now I bring actual dishes to the Thanksgiving meal (and my family is all still incredibly impressed, even now.) If I can learn to cook, you can too!
If you can relate to this, please pass it along and share the camaraderie! Let’s build the community!