Saturday, October 1, 2011

How I Learned (to Like) to Cook

In my devotion published this week, I mentioned that I had learned to cook and to like cooking.
If you wish you could experience that same transformation, read on. Maybe I can help. Or at least give you hope.

Growing up, both my parents worked. I'm told my mother went through a gourmet cooking phase before I was born. I never saw it. Or tasted it. And since my mom died early, I never learned it either. Mom's dinners usually consisted of supermarket fried chicken, or maybe Stouffeurs' lasagna and salad.

I married young, and went straight to grad school where I had classes many nights until 10 PM.  Dinner usually consisted of jars of Ragu or Old El Paso dinner kits. Cooking seemed like a chore - a chore often solved by restaurant dining - and honestly, I wasn't all that good at it.

The cooking, I mean, not the dining. I've always excelled at dining.

I had very little cooking knowledge or intuition. My knife skills were dismal (still not great). And I burned myself multiple times a month. I couldn't figure out how people thought this was fun. I assumed I just didn't have the domestic cooking gene.

Then I met a couple friends who checked cookbooks out from the library and read them for fun like novels. Whaatt?? They planned days in advance what they'd make for dinner. I reluctantly gave it thought each day around 5:00 PM.

One night I spent the night with my girlfriend Christy - author Charles Martin's wife and a great cook - while our husbands were out of town together. The next morning she wanted to watch Martha Stewart's show.  Martha was cooking with cranberries. I'd never seen a whole episode before, or a whole cranberry.

I decided there MUST be something to this cooking thing that I'm missing. And then I started reading in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes talks a lot about food and drink and pleasure. It warns us not to base our life on such things, but it also advises us to learn to enjoy them in light of God who grants enjoyment.

So I made that my goal for a year. 

I read about the Slow Food Movement. And that year I chose the word SLOW as my one word.

Here's what I did that year:
  • I watched the Food Network, often.
  • I started looking at cooking books, though I still don't enjoy them as much as novels.
  • I went to cooking demonstrations at Williams & Sonoma
  • I found that a few cooking classes can make a big difference.
  • I read foodie novels and foodie memoirs such as A Homemade Life.
  • I began following the local foodie scene in Wilmington.
  • I gave myself permission to try and fail, and try again.
  • I remodeled my kitchen a little bit.
  • I bought a good sharp knife, and a new cutting board.
  • I starting playing music when I cook. Sometimes in the room, sometimes on my iPod.
  • I stopped at Farmers' Markets and roadside fruit stands.
  • I chose to be adventurous in tasting new things.
  • I decided that my goal was no longer to get meals made as quickly and efficiently as possible, but to enjoy the process of making them.

And somewhere in that year cooking became a form of relaxation, creativity and pleasure at the end of my day. I first realized this shift had happened while watching the employee at Williams & Sonoma demonstrate a new chopper/dicer gadget. I turned to the stranger standing beside me and said, "I think I'd rather just chop my own vegetables by hand." She nodded. We bonded over the fact that, for us, chopping is a zen-like experience we don't wish to forfeit.

When I chose SLOW as my one word, I labeled it as the thing I most wanted God to do in me that year. And He did it.

Now by late afternoon I am jonsing to get into the kitchen and start on dinner. To create it, smell it, taste it. And it tastes good, thanks to me and fresh ingredients rather than some large food company. There is something really satisfying about that.

So I'm living proof that a woman who didn't like to cook, didn't want to cook and wasn't good at it, can change.

How about you ... do you like to cook? Could you learn to?


  1. Thanks for sharing, I loved this! I really love to cook and make something wonderful and fresh for my family too, and I am one of those people that really enjoy looking though a cookbook for fun!! I have to juggle a 5 yr old and 3 yr old who will mostly play and let me work in the kitchen except for the occasional "I want to help!" or "please can I stir that?!" and also a 1 yr old who most days is tired and just wanting mommy when it's time to start dinner. I end up doing a lot one handed with him on my hip. Some nights, by the time I get to sit at the table, I'm a bit frazzled and trying hard to keep my cool, but it is still SO satisfying (and fun) to provide for my family like that and really a blessing also to sit down together each night. I'll cherish that while I can before the crazy sports schedules or dance classes or things like that start! :)
    Many blessings!!
    Caty :)

  2. Hey Caty. I think you are doing your kids and family a great service. Not only in feeding them well but in instilling a postive attitude towards cooking in them. After all, we all have to cook at some point!

    Smiles ~ Rachel

  3. I love to cook. My problem now is that work doesn't allow me the time to do much, so when Holidays and Birthdays come along I go all out for my family!

  4. Cooking is the one thing that I really wish I had more time for. When I was a student I was one of the few people I knew who actually cooked real meals for myself in my tiny little kitchen.

    Now I am blessed with full-time help at home so I don't have to cook but sometimes I really wish I could just throw her out of the kitchen for a few days! I can't cook with other people - I need to be master of my own kitchen,

    The only thing I cook now is cupcakes, scones & biscuits when my daughter asks to have a baking session.

  5. I love this post Rachel... and I'm wondering if you might come over and give me some private lessons. Smiles.

    I think I have a secret love for cooking somewhere way deep down but how to find it is quite the mystery.

    Happy cooking sweet friend.

  6. I'm really interested in your year-long Bible study to craft a life pleasing to both God and you. Was it free-form or did you use a specific text? I would need some structure. Do you have any book suggestions?


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