I was invited to a friend's house for dinner the other day. As we sat in her kitchen chatting about this and that I watched as she prepared the food for our meal. It was an elaborate symphony of movement with my friend serving as the conductor in the center of it all. She shelled peas and set them to boil. She created a marinade with spices and liquids and braised duck with it. Then she set about dessert using raspberries from the farmers market to create a cobbler. She spoke lovingly of her process, the time it took to shell the peas, to can the preserves, to baste the duck just right. All in all we probably sat in her kitchen for over an hour simply to prep everything. When all the food was prepared and ready to cook, she then made a pizza from scratch, using dough she had kneaded and primed earlier in the day so the children could have an entirely separate meal. The food was suburb. A true culinary feast and I was thankful my friend shared it with me. But the entire time we were sitting and talking, all that kept running through my head was, "How long does all this take? Who has the time to cook like this? And a separate meal for the kids? What does this women have that I don't?"
The answer is nothing. My friend is a lover of cooking. Of creating. Of inspiring. I, on the other hand, am a reluctant cook.
I am reluctant because I derive no joy from cooking. Eating and having others eat my food, yes. I am thrilled when my husband or friends compliment my food. I am overcome with joy when my children ask for more. But if I could never cook again I never would. And in theory I really don't have to. The supermarket shelves are lined with packaged foods that I could prepare in minutes. Pasta, meats, vegetables, fish, chicken. All lined up with their brightly covered packages calling out to me as I walk the aisle. Buy me! Cook me and you can spend more time with your kids! Eat this and you can do more work! I simply smile, and pass them by.
I cook roughly 5-6 days a week. I prepare a menu for the week and I shop for food. I shop the perimeter as Michael Pollen suggests in Food Rules. I ignore the myriad of processed foods. I cook because I can control what is in the food. How much sugar, salt, spice goes in. I cook to ensure my family tries different things. I cook to lead by example. To show my children that it's easy to prepare a meal and serve it using what you find in the fridge. I cook so that when friends come over they can see that with a little time, even working parents can get homemade food on the table. I cook simply because I care about the health and well being of myself and those around me. I cook because I love.
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