What’s for dinner?

The first thing I thought about this morning was “what am I going to make for dinner?” Ok, maybe it wasn’t the first, but it was definitely one of the first things I thought about when I peeled my eyelids open.

For many, many years, even decades, I have spent many minutes (which likely, if you added them all together would equal days and weeks) thinking about food and ingredients to buy, and cooking methods to try. This starts at around 6 am. Sometimes, if it’s the fall and winter months, the sun isn’t even in the sky yet and I’m thinking about dinner. There are two meals (and snacks) that come before that, but dinner, that’s the big one, the time to shine. And often dinner reappears as lunch, so dinner better be good if we’re going to eat it twice!

But it’s not even about the food, and how it tastes. Yes, that is important, but lately I’ve started prodding at the act of cooking in my life, and what it has meant to me through all the changes and evolutions I’ve gone through since I started pre-heating oil and experimenting with recipes.

There are three things I think of when I think of food and cooking in my life:

  1. I spent A LOT of hours watching the Food Network. I loved the challenge shows like Top Chef and eventually Chopped, but what I really loved were Barefoot Contessa, Nigella and of course, Martha Stewart. And before I got into Food Network I’d watch the Urban Peasant on CBC.
  2. Cooking was a way for me to experiment and to exercise control in my life when I couldn’t.
  3. My grandma. Almost always, when I think of cooking, even if I’m cooking dishes she wouldn’t have made, I think of her, because in her kitchen she always seemed at ease, and I’ve come to admire the fact that she cared more about feeding people and enjoying food.

If you’ve watched Barefoot Contessa, Ina is always cooking food to share with someone else, often her adorable husband Jeffrey. But while she’s cooking for others, the process seems to be for her. I just watched a video of her making a Croque Monsieur and listening to her voice, so calm, so at ease, I almost thought I was watching Bob Ross paint happy little trees.

When I started cooking, I cooked stir fries, or as my dad called them “science experiments.” I’d take dozens of bottles and jars from the cupboards and fridge and armed with almost as many teaspoons. I’d add and stir and taste. Ketchup and orange juice and soy sauce mixed together and tasted over and over again. Every stir fry was different. It was with those stir fries that I started a new relationship, not only with food, but also with my body and eating.

When I watch Nigella and Ina cook, taste and talk about food their love, passion and enthusiasm for food and eating oozes from the TV. People have talked about shows like what’s on the Food Network as food porn, but this just feeds into the shame that women are supposed to have around our enjoyment of food and eating. At one point in my life I applied to culinary school, I toured the classrooms, the kitchens where (if I had attended) I’d cook, but then a cook I was dating at the time told me that once I start cooking for others I’d stop loving it. It would stop being for me. Food is beautiful and is a way to share our stories and to share our love. By cooking for people and ourselves we can show love and affection in a way that is hard to find elsewhere.

Now I’m hungry, and need to go back to day dreaming about what I’m making for dinner.

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