I need to confess something publicly. A few weeks ago I came to a disheartening conclusion.
I don’t like cooking anymore.
My friends noticed it first. I was cooking less and sharing less (when friends needed meals, I defaulted to giving Costco chicken and store bought sides). I began repeatedly telling my accountability group that I was struggling with the mechanics of meal planning, food prep, and clean up.
When I grocery shopped, I began looking for all the “healthy” convenience foods I could find, like cooked chicken patties from Trader Joe’s or ready-to-eat salad mixes. Anything to keep me out of the kitchen.
The tipping point came as I worked to help launch the online cooking class, the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse. Guilt overwhelmed me.
How could I teach my own kids about cooking when I don’t even cook myself?
The Death of a Dream
Although there are several reasons why my love of cooking shriveled away, one of the biggest reasons was combating oral sensory processing issues in our family (yes, even adults can have this). If you’re unfamiliar with oral sensory processing, you should check out this previous Kitchen Stewardship post: When A Picky Eater Might Have More Going On.
Check out this partial list from that post:
- everything is “spicy”
- gags on food easily
- holds food in mouth for long periods of time (i.e. one bite for 20 minutes)
- stores food in cheek without chewing
- brushing teeth is difficult
- difficulty chewing and swallowing raw/uncooked/hard foods
- skin/peels on food is bothersome
- can’t take bites with front teeth
- won’t use silverware/continues to use hands to eat at an older age
- (to see the rest of the list, click here)
I always viewed cooking as an expression of love for my family.
To prove my love, I wanted to make food that was crazy flavorful, adventurous, new, exciting.
They needed food that was soft, bland, simple, and predictable. To them, that was love.
So slowly I began shelving my favorite recipes in order to accommodate my family. I hung up my spices and my curries and my raw garlic …. sticking with mild herbs. I wracked my brain for recipes and grew discouraged as dinner after dinner was rejected or a fight.
Eventually my recipe box shrunk to just seven recipes in it. That’s right. Just seven. A hopelessly monotonous list.
The food-loving cook in me withered away. Eventually, it just became easier to give up.
The Journey Back To Joy
I’ve had it drilled into my head from multiple parenting sources:
- Don’t be a short-order cook for your kids.
- Don’t cater to everyone’s preferences and drive yourself batty.
- Don’t make a separate meal for everyone in your house.
And so I convinced myself: I wouldn’t make a dish unless everyone in the house would at least tolerate it. Shoot, I’d even settle for three out of four people eating it!
But this led to a withering of my soul. And when mama is dry and worn thin, the whole family suffers.
And so I began an experiment.
I began making food just for ME.
Oh, it took some effort. And it felt totally weird to make food just for myself.
I went easy: open-faced turkey sandwiches layered with swiss cheese and fancy mustard, sprinkled with fresh basil – broiled to crispy perfection. (We have melted-cheese-haters in our house; pizza makes them cry.)
And do you know what happened? I had one family member wander in and say, “Hey… that smells good!” They tried it. AND LIKED IT.
Then I made braised red cabbage with apples, onion, and vinegar. Mmmmmm, so good. No one else joined me in my happy dish, but I reveled in the deep flavor.
So in order to restore my joy and my sense of confidence as a cook, I’m learning to be a short-order cook. I’m making dishes that no one else will eat but me. And you know what? I’m finding freedom and joy in it.
I began this post by saying that I don’t like cooking anymore. I guess that really isn’t true. I should say:
I’m learning to love cooking again. I’m finding my joy.
A Few Resources
- If you’re needing ideas on smaller portion sides or meals to make for yourself, check out the massive archives on Plan To Eat, including many recipes from the Kitchen Stewardship archives. KS loves Plan to Eat for how easy it is to make shopping lists, prep lists, and more!
- Speaking of KS archives, you can also find all the recipes here. Did you know you can search by meal (snacks, soup, dinner, salad), by category (egg-free, easy meals, kid friendly), or by INGREDIENT?! I’m loving this feature.
- If you want to do some batch cooking of foods, check out Once A Month Meals recipes. They give you the tools to scale recipes up or down to feed the number of family members you want.
- If you’re intrigued by what Mary had to say about oral processing, you should check out her just-released ebook that touches on that, food allergies, and other challenges moms face: Why Won’t My Child Eat?!
Plan to Eat is an April sponsor receiving their complementary mention.