It's no secret - I've wanted to start cooking for a while now. Lest you think that I'm a complete idiot, I know how to cook some things. It's just that what I know how to cook are holiday favorites or...well... a full Thanksgiving dinner. Mostly because those are the meals that I've helped with over the years.
Sure, I know a few "normal" recipes here and there that I learned in college, but for the most part, my cooking has been limited to Hamburger Helper, sandwiches, and cereal. Yes, even for dinner.
I'm not proud when I say that more often than not, I've grabbed something via a drive-thru on the way home. And since dating Joe, the process hasn't changed much - the restaurants just got nicer. Suffice it to say, much of 2010, we ate out for dinner.
It's expensive. And while it's nice every once in a while to have someone else do the cooking, at our house going out to eat becomes a bit of a chore. See, I have to wait for him to come home and THEN we have a 30 minute discussion on where we should go. So usually, I'm eating later than I'd like - and it takes up more of the night than I'd like. Moreover, it's not a particularly stress-free process.
I've shied away from cooking regularly for two reasons: 1) I'm not a huge fan of leftovers and 2) it seemed like just another GD thing I had to do on my list of eleventy things to do in a given day. 'When I come home, I want to relax' I tell myself. I deserve being taken care of, don't I? So spoiling myself by eating out often seemed the best way to indulge.
But being on disability for 8 weeks (followed by vacation for 2 weeks), gives one a lot of time to reflect. I've felt like I didn't accomplish anything while I was off work and my need to be productive in some way started to become more apparent.
So the last few weeks, I've decided to actually do more cooking - at least 5 dinner meals a week are going to be done inside our loft walls. It's a big switch.
I started out 2011 making something I've never made before - chicken soup. I cut up all the veggies and chicken. I seasoned the broth to taste the way I like it. I used the noodles that Joe loves. And while it may have been more hearty than other chicken noodle soups, it was fantastic.
It was so good, in fact, that I made it again on Monday for dinner. Yesterday, I made gumbo in the crockpot for dinner as well as tuna fish salad for my lunch for the rest of the week.
When I get to chopping or cooking, a few things happen.
1) I unwind by listening to music I like and enjoying tea, wine, or ice cold water while I do it. It's a fantastic way for me to relax - not listening to talking, television, or anyone else. It's just me and pleasant sounds.
2) I know what's going in my food. While I do want to be better about eating only when I'm hungry, I find that knowing exactly what I'm eating is helpful AND fun. I get to pick out fresh ingredients at the grocery store. I get to explore what foods I like and what spices I don't. If the end result tastes good, I know more about what I actually like...which makes the next time I'm eating out easier to choose what I want anyway.
3) I get a feeling of satisfaction by knowing that I am doing something productive. And when I eat what I made? I feel proud that I made something healthy, tasty, and nurturing for me.
And can I just say that watching Joe eat a meal I thoughtfully and deliberately made is just about the best feeling? Especially when he goes for a second helping? Oh man - such a great feeling. He likes what I cook or bake and I feel good knowing that I'm fueling him with things that are good for him.
Cooking makes my meals more enjoyable. I've destressed while preparing the dish so that when I eat it, either with Joe or alone, I'm in a place that I can truly enjoy it. I'm pampered because it's a meal that I want, a meal I like, and it's using ingredients that I like. I know what's in it - and the freshness of veggies and spices makes the meal truly tasty.
The whole experience of preparing, sharing, and eating is pretty great. And while I'm not Betty Crocker or June Cleaver yet, I'm proud of my presence in my home just the same.
Who knows, I may be domesticated yet.