Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cooking is therapy and FOOD is the original "social network"

Some people use food as their source of comfort. In many ways, so do I. The big difference is, I'm not an emotional eater- I'm an emotional cook. I'll be honest, it's been a tough week so far in our little lake house. Things are not perfect, and the fairy tale seems to be coming apart at the seams. The stress of job hunting is wearing on me very harshly. Throw me a few cocktails, and over-indulgence takes place, and the meltdown begins. The Chef and I have been on eachothers' nerves lately. He is non-committable about everything, kind of a seat-of-his-pants guy and I'm someone who just needs a kiss and a hug and the occasional "I love you baby. Everything is going to be ok".  I need reassurance, not the uneasy feeling that if the going gets tough, someone is going to pack it up and move. And when I don't get that....... I turn to food. I don't make big pans of chocolate cake and mow my way through. I cook. I can. I bake. I sear. I pound out and saute. I pick herbs. I play with dried hot peppers that could scald my eyeballs out. Food is my therapy. Or rather, COOKING is my therapy. Seems like the kitchen has become my safety zone, because I know that no matter what happens in the cruel outside world, the cut-throat job market, no matter who hurts me, ignores me, excludes me or makes me miserable in any way....... I CAN excel at what I do in the kitchen. There is such a huge boost in self-esteem seeing the cake you worked on for 3 hours sitting on the display plate, looking like something you picked up at the bakery. It makes my heart happy. Seeing a perfectly browned roast turkey emerge from the oven just makes my whole day better. And let's talk about the smells....... slow roasted winter foods like roasts and turkeys and stews and homemade breads fill the home with aromas that are nothing but happiness to me. That is real aromatherapy to me !!

I think another reason cooking is therapy for me is because those smells and flavors take me back to much happier, simpler times. Thanksgiving at my grandparents' home in Minnesota. Picking blackberries in the thicket and then staying up late making blackberry jam with my neighbor at RAF Shepherds Grove in England. Making meatloaf with that same neighbor from a shared-ingredient dinner because as military wives, we had very limited budgets and sometimes you just don't have enough ingredients to make a whole dinner, so you got together with your neighbor, combined what you had to make one meal for both families. I can easily get lost in a bowl of cookie dough remembering what it was like to have little kids underfoot and always begging for raw dough and hot from the oven cookies. I equate all these good feelings to the psychiatrist saying "Tell me about your past".

For me, cooking is also a HUGE ego booster, especially if you're good at it and (usually) have good results. I'm no professional chef, and I won't even begin to sit here and say I can compete in a professional kitchen. I'm sure I don't want to !! I am not the person who wants to yell and be yelled at my entire worklife. But put me in a kitchen and I can confidently hold my own. I'm not a "church cookbook" cook, nor a casserole person, I like to stretch my skills and really put it all out there and make something fantastic- beef wellington, lobster ravioli with homemade pasta dough, desserts that are superstar quality, there is nothing I won't try to make. I read cookbooks like textbooks and am not afraid to experiment with flavor combinations. I am FEARLESS in the kitchen. That fearlessness HAS ended in a few total flops too- but that's ok. I got to work out my hurts and fears in the creation process, and my frustrations as I tossed the offending food item into the trash with much fanfare. A few weeks ago it was a gloriously beautiful and absolutely hideous tasting apricot galette. That's ok....it looked good in pictures anyway !!

It's so rewarding to me to walk over to a neighbor with a pie I've made and see the happy reaction when I give it away, or a jar of jam, or a bowl of tomatoes picked from the garden. Food is such a social experience- we meet friends for dinner, we have people over to grill, we share snacks on Super Bowl Sunday, offices all over the country have potlucks and food days, organizations have pancake breakfasts. Food truly IS the original social network. I'd rather share a pan of brownies with someone than "poke" them, which is such a silly meaningless gesture, but the act of SHARING promotes friendship and good feelings. "Let's meet for coffee".......... "Come over for dessert"........you get what I mean. Sharing food is such a social experience for many people.

I seem to be having some trouble trying to bring this to a close......maybe typing/writing is also becoming my therapy ??? Perhaps......

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