I was talking to my mom the other day and the topic of cooking came up. Or not cooking, as the case was. My grandmother was a very good Polish cook, but that tradition was, sadly, not passed down. My mother detests cooking. She herself will tell you that if it has more than three ingredients, she's out (although she does make this Polish soup, Bigos, at Christmas that calls for 12-20 ingredients depending on your recipe, includes 3-5 different kinds of meat (mostly pork) and plenty of things to chop. No joke.).
And I understand not always enjoying cooking, for sure. Having to think about meals three times a day, seven days a week, thirty days a month.... well, that's a lot of thinking about, planning for and preparing food. There are times when I wish we did have a pill that solved our hunger and nutritional requirements (those are the nights we eat potstickers).
However.... have you been to the cookbook section recently?!! The world is full of such amazing foods! And ways to combine them, prepare them, spice them. I mean, wow. I may be slightly more in love with the cookbooks and the possibilities than I always am with the actual cooking, but.... they do inspire me. I am in awe of the people who do cook and combine so easily, who know how to put spices together in pleasing ways. I think cooking for them is much easier because they don't have to think so much about it. I may never be that good, but I know that the more I practice at combining, the better I get to know my ingredients and what goes best with what.
So, I made some fried (yes, Mother, fried) spring rolls for dinner last night to go with our Thai soup, tom kha gai, that Fraser made over the weekend. I really wanted just the rice paper wrapped spring rolls, but the store didn't have those papers so I went with the wheat ones that need frying. They were delicious! I was very proud of myself for doing something different and new and (a little bit) intimidating to me (I actually don't know that I've ever truly fried much in my life).
This morning Jacob and I made some baked oatmeal out of this great cookbook, Super Natural Every Day . Really good. It was like oatmeal, kind of, but more like a really soft cookie but more fruity and not so sweet. And a little more soupy. Delicious. And easy. I have been reading through the book because it's due back at the library soon and instead of just thinking about doing one of the recipes, I actually did it.
The point is this: can cooking be a chore? Absolutely. Can there also be a lot of creativity and joy in it? Most definitely. When I was in college I remember thinking about preparing food for just myself and thinking that this was a bit tiresome and nothing to get very into. Then, I shifted my focus into thinking of meals (dinner especially) as a whole, nourishing process. Almost like a meditation, a way to take care of myself, give something to myself. From that point on, I had a different, and much more enjoyable, approach to making food.
As a parent, dinner time is definitely not always a meditative process, by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is still a process by which we take care of ourselves. It is also a great opportunity to involve Jacob in what we are doing. He loves being in the kitchen helping. Sometimes that means adding ingredients. Sometimes it means whisking. Sometimes it means having two chairs set up at both counters in our very small kitchen while I'm trying to walk around them without tripping over them or him all the while having a pot of something boiling on the stove. I try to be patient with him and plan his helping time into the dinner making time. Sometimes I am not as patient as I would like to be. But he reminds me that it's all okay ("See, Mommy? I whisked it very carefully."), to keep my perspective where it should be. After all, I would much rather have him grow up with fond memories in the kitchen and an even better relationship with cooking than I have. If that is the case, all the thinking, planning, making, messing and eating will be totally worth it. And if not... well, at least I'll be a better cook.