One of the best gifts you can give to yourself is a meal you made with your own hands. In fact one of the best gifts you can give to anyone is a gift you prepared. There is something affirming when we cook a meal and others not only eat it but like it. In that moment we are providing the nourishment that will sustain them another day. Yeah, cooking is really that deep…and sacred. Why do think a recipe passed down from a dear departed ancestor is a well-guarded secret? The pride you feel when you of all people can recreate Grandma Clara’s chocolate layer cake or Grandmother Ruthie’s okra soup.
The gift of a meal is one of life’s simplest pleasures so why don’t more people cook or even like to cook? Well, cooking is too intimidating and they’re afraid. There are too many moving parts, too many ingredients. Is it the right time to buy? Is it seasonal? Is it local? Is it edible? What flavors go together? These plates don’t match! And all of a sudden the take-out menu for the local Chinese carryout is a welcomed retreat. On top of that, we have filled every bit of free space in our day, there is literally no time to cook unless you consider microwaving a Hot Pocket, cooking. A few months ago I bought a step-by-step cookbook for beginners. I love it because it highlights the simplicity of the ingredients. When you deconstruct a dish to its basic components, it’s not so daunting. Which leads me to another reason I think many people don’t enjoy cooking- they have managed to over-complicate it. I used to tell my esthetic students I could do a facial with Vaseline and water and I say to you, if I have olive oil, onions, peppers, and garlic, we have dinner! You don’t need milk from a Mongolian goat or the oil from a desert rose. You just need a well-stocked pantry full of the staple ingredients- oils, spices, herbs, grains, greens, etc.
Picture and copyright by Xaviera
As a resident foodie and self-proclaimed great cook, I do understand the hesitancy. Cooking is an art and everyone wasn’t blessed with the gift. Incidentally, if you rearrange the "c" and "a" in "sacred" you get "scared"- random thought but that might be how you feel. Regardless, you still need to eat. So cooking, in all its many forms, is a life skill you have to learn. I learned to cook from my mother, and her mother before her. My girls are learning to cook from me- not simply how to measure and pour but to appreciate the art and the gift. I am connected to everything I make. I don’t take it lightly. It’s a serious undertaking every time I do it. I don’t mean I make it complicated. Actually the simplest dishes are my favorite to make and I love revamping recipes to make them simpler (and healthier) so that it [cooking] doesn’t become something I dread.
My husband sometimes gets mad at me because I don’t eat everyone’s cooking. He’s right, I don’t and I’ll tell you why- I love to cook and for me cooking is like a conversation I have with every single person who dines at my table. It’s like prayer- the open, honest communication with God. Something happens when we share a meal. There’s an exchange of energy not only from the food but from the cook. Would you want someone praying over you who doesn’t know God or seek a hug from the angriest person in the room? I am aware that what I feel (good, bad, or indifferent) goes into the food I prepare and can energetically change its properties. I have eaten my share of crappy food and with so few calories to spare on any given day, why would I want to waste it on anything that would make me want to kick (not kiss) the cook? Moreover, I know not everyone puts the same love and care into the plates they present. Truth be told, some people put more negative energy into their food than anything else. I am sensitive to that and you probably are too which is why saying grace before a meal is that much more important. Bon appétit!
©2016 by Tasha D. Manigo-Bizzell