Tag Archives: cooking

A splash, a dash and an anxiety attack

One of my deepest #shames, #lifefails, is my paralyzing inability to cook for my family.

Yikes. There. I said it.

I instinctively equate this issue with having a real disinterest in nurturing my family, for which I suspect judgement is in right order. Oh, I can emotionally feed my children home cooked guidance that has marinated in years of experience, observation and are tender, delicious and nourish the soul – but put me in front of an oven and I argue the kids don’t really need to eat. Do they? On top of the mommy shame rests a heavy weight that socially, I place a lot of value on the women who can cook. It’s a symbol of  having had the time and space to practice; it’s success, generosity and maternal instinct all rolled into one tasty dish and I worry that my life has manifested by way of sucking at it.

In an effort to make me more comfortable in the kitchen, my husband has purchased as many self-cooking appliances as possible. Rice cookers, slow cookers, blenders, bullets, and most recently the Instant Pot. However, due to my aversion to manuals, these appliances tend to cause me anxiety and I have managed to reverse cook rice, burn steak and slow cook chicken to death in these machines. I know one setting on the Instant Pot, and everything shall be cooked using that setting, whether it’s meat, vegetables or yogurt. The embarrassment is deep when something simple goes wrong, and I often feel like I am making things worse just by showing up. I have served my children uncooked batter, salty pie crust that nearly hospitalized us for dehydration, and really. bad. bread. And so I cook wearing heavy armour, protecting me from when the kids get that look on their face. I don’t want to experience The Deep Hurt. I’m too old to be set back a few childhood issues.

Believe it or not, I’ve made a lot of progress in that last 10 years. Ask my husband. The fact that he fell in love with me while I was eating a balanced diet of canned soup and alphaghetti and tolerates my incredible disappearing acts when it’s time to cook supper, is a miracle. I love when he talks about that early time – about how much he loved the decor of my apartment, how beautiful and alluring I was. How one day he opened my cupboards and blinked into the darkness, having his first second thought about our relationship.  He still laughs about how simple and salty my diet was, and I remember feeling like I had stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia when I walked into his apartment and it was filled with spices, rice and cooking pots that only my grandparents had.

However, I have recently discovered a chink in my own armour, and there may be a way into the world of cooking for my battered and bruised self-esteem. I have stumbled upon these magnificent pieces of writing called recipes, within which structure and safety is offered. Yes, I’ve screwed up some meals even though I followed a recipe, but because I’m following direction, when there is a screw up it’s the recipe’s fault. It didn’t say to cook the dough. Inside the world of these recipes, I am able to pretend I am a cook, and I have moments of relaxing just prior to the brocoli burning, or right before I taste the sauce. I’m not yet ready to interpret and improvise, but I can already imagine a time when I will be. And these moments, built carefully on top of each other, will one day result in a tower of confidence in the kitchen. Maybe. Hopefully.

One recipe at a time.

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Beer And Boyardee

That’s right. I took off my organic hat today and turned on the stove top to heat up some Chef Boyardee. I am proud to say that I was more excited for my lunch today than I was to nap, nap twice and then go to bed. I believe it to be the first can of Chef Boyardee that my son has enjoyed and I wanted to remember the moment with a beer. Reasonable. It was fantastic, and as I scooped the pasta and ‘beef’ from the pot into the bowls, I was careful to ensure that I took a mental snapshot of the moment in order to remember it for years to come.

As I ate each spoonful I thought of the little corner store that I bought it from, and how wonderful it is to support local businesses. I thought of how smart they are, to carry such products, when they also carry much fresher, more ethnic goodies cooked right in their kitchen – but that they are in a neighbourhood of students, and how many students must grab at these comfort foods canned and ready to go? Smart.

I thought of all the commercials I have seen of mother and baby enjoying their Chef Boyardee and how if there was a camera on me, I would be giving those happy actors a run for their money. Here I am, truly smiling and chit chatting with my curious son who hears trucks reversing and listens to the beeping and then reaches out a hand for another tasty bite. Here I am, listening to some new music, feeling refreshed to have something on other than Raffi and enjoying a sudden burst of sun from the window. I look to my cat and allow him to keep eating the plastic bag on the floor, ‘Go ahead Jimmy, keep eating that bag, lets see what happens‘.

I think of all the things I’ve read or conversations I’ve been part of, of the importance of eating healthy, of eating fresh, of making sure your baby gets the best of everything. I couldn’t agree more. As we spooned the last of the bowls into our hungry bellies, I thought, this is the best. Son, you just consumed enough salt to last you to Monday, and isn’t that amazing? We shared a lunch of ease – of pure and utter ease, and that is the best. That is worth more than anything these days, when I am tired, sick, not very engaged, contemplative and self absorbed about a hopeful future, and for 40 minutes we got to sit and gibberish back and forth and then wait for the sugar crash to hit and it’s off to bed. We are the 1%.

So as you pre-prepare your kid’s lunch; chopping, rinsing, cooking, sautéing, I don’t know – stop and consider the possibility of a Chef Boyardee Lunch. Who knows. You might find yourself enjoying a moment of bliss. I threw in a beer because I’m an adult and while I gave my son organic milk to sip, I thought there’s gotta be line here somewhere, so I’m gonna sip on my organic beer. (Much thanks to Shelagh and Cam).

Off to bed. Sugar crash: check. Unknown

Bad Mum! Bad!

I see posts from moms all the time of pictures of them cooking with their kids. I read articles about how cooking with your kids makes them interested in healthy eating, creates a sense of play and bonding between parent and child and I see clips on TV about easy recipes you can cook with your kids for a fun activity.

These pieces of information always leave me feeling less than, and I usually close the tab/magazine/channel. I am not a good cook. Apparently when my husband and I started dating, my eating and cooking habits were enough to make him stop and question the longevity of our relationship. My cooking involved the intricacies of opening a can of soup and toasting some bread. When I was feeling especially fancy I would cook some pasta and drizzle some canned sauce on top. Opening and heating was what I excelled at.

After my daughter was born I became slightly more adept in the kitchen but lets not kid ourselves. Expanding my cooking skills was highly stressful and humiliating. So deeply emotional was my relationship with the act of cooking that when I by accident saw a Life Coach for about 6 months, one of my homework assignments was to prepare a meal and share it with a loved one. It was the only piece of homework I never turned in.

I was given a cook book by Mark Bittman (a wonderful and generous man who deserves to be thanked for the many meals and beginning healing process) that literally went through the basics of everything from boiling an egg to reminding you to use oven mitts when taking a pan out. From this book I learned some more complicated meals and began to enjoy the prepping process and the odd satisfaction of eating a meal I had handled and served. I also resented that all that hard work was just gone and would literally be down the toilet in a matter of hours.

All of this to say, the one thing I knew I sucked at was including my daughter in the cooking process. She would ask and I would snap No! Sometimes I would explain that because I was so uncomfortable in the kitchen, I would not be a good teacher. I think that’s pretty wise and accurate. But every once in a while, I would try to do the “right thing” and we would attack a recipe together.

It never goes well. It’s a lot of elbows and judgments and usually me telling her to just get out of my way because – can we be honest for a second? Adults are better at certain things than kids. And I have some OCD when it comes to cooking and I don’t like messes and I don’t like watching somebody do it wrong. She usually pushes me out of the way to do whatever it is she thinks is needed to make the best cookies ever which involves something like barely stirring the batter.

Today we tackled goat cheese tarts. Balls of goat cheese with basil and roasted red peppers. Easy enough. Messy as hell. I threw the baby into his crib after too much screaming at my feet. I shoved my daughter off the little chair so that I could get to the bowl of partly whisked egg, and I was sweating way too much for a 30 minute appetizer.

All you moms who cook with your kids… bless you. You make it look so easy and poetic. I wish I could do it and give my daughter some memories of laughing with her mom while flour falls around us and we munch on chocolate chips. Instead she’ll have to settle for snippy instructions and heavy breathing for some goat cheese balls.