Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are you just cooking... or preparing a Meal?

A friend of mine had posted a question on a forum today, about how to make some easy but healthy snacks for her food-driven toddler. After a variety of suggestions (which she appreciated) she made a very interesting comment, “A big part is that cooking and baking I love...however I'm not used to doing it more than twice a day.”

Girl, I feel your pain.

Three years ago – literally THREE YEARS AGO – I was single and cooking for myself. I’ve always enjoyed cooking. My mother once asked me why I never became a chef and I told her it was because it was my artistic outlet and I wanted it to remain that way, not be something I “had to do” to make a living. I had the luxury of choosing when to cook. And that was about once a week. Most of the time I lived on sandwiches, or quick easy things like some chicken and… well, chicken. Sides were a waste of time. Unless you count a glass of wine as a side. But then I would break out with a Stilton Walnut Soup or roasted quail.

Go forward a year and I was cooking for myself and a husband. A year later, myself, a husband, and a child. I wanted to provide nutritious meals on a budget of both time and money. Meals became an endless cycle of trying to figure out what to cook – chicken and side, roast and side, pasta with whoknowswhat, etc. And just to be clear, my idea of a side is a salad of premixed greens, MAYBE cut up a tomato and a cuke just to make it look like I worked at it. And to add further insult to injury, I knew deep down I had little to complain about – lunches were “every man for himself” and my husband often makes breakfast for all of us.

But suddenly, I wasn’t just cooking for dinner. I had this little person who was wanting to eat half a dozen little “meals” a day. Not only that, but I had to keep track of them (that whole food allergy analysis thing, bummer). The energy drain was incredible. Cooking became a drudgery. I felt like I was spending all day in the kitchen. I felt like my food was endlessly dull and lifeless.

It changed, gradually. Children train us in the early days, not the other way around. I figured out her eating patterns and God blessed me with a child who will eat almost anything. But for many months my dinners remained… just food.

Move forward another year and I now have a husband, toddler, and a new baby. Cooking just seemed to become the ultimate impossibility. One day… something happened. I remembered what this was supposed to be about.

Nourishment. Nurturing. Health. Happiness.

Making dinner isn’t about cooking food. It’s about preparing a meal.

Read that again.

Making dinner isn’t about cooking food. It’s about preparing a meal. 

There is a big difference.

Anyone can scramble an egg in five minutes. Not everyone will realize that a few extra seconds (and very few cents can turn something to eat into something tasty, and beautiful, and healthy. That a dash of sea salt and a dollop of pesto can turn that egg into something amazing. Add a slice of tomato and put on a piece of whole grain bread and voila!

My kitchen has exploded recently. I’m not just cooking again, I’m creating. I’m working on my art. I’m recognizing that healthy begins and ends with what we eat but it’s not just about science. A meal nourishes the heart. I want my children to understand this. So if I spend all day in the kitchen, and it’s always a mess, that’s ok. I'm happier. Healthier. Which makes me a better mother.

Another friend of mine posted recently that she was about ready to give up on her own health journey, it was too hard to cook for a variety of palates and tastes.

Don’t. Don’t give up. A healthy body AND soul begins and ends with diet. Just keep saying that to yourself.

Next post I’ll put out some tips I’ve picked up in recent months on how to make things a little easier. :-)


  1. I have no creativity when it comes to cooking, I am definitely going to be looking here for inspiration!!! :)

    1. I don't know how much inspiration I can supply, but you can always come here for humor ;-)