Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nina Luna finds her kitchen.

I don't cook very often because I don't think I do it well enough. Perfectionism (aka my constant companion and shadow) keeps me away. And of course eating is still not uncomplicated for me even after over a decade of healing from an eating disorder. If I do cook, it is in a Conquer kind of way: get a big idea and make a big production trying it once, then good or not - it usually seems like too much work to bother again.

But an unexpected result of my current romantic relationship is more time in the kitchen... somehow the gentle and accepting company of this particular companion has helped me be open enough to take this risk. Luckily, I have received a lot of personal coaching from my friend who cooks good food as naturally as she breathes. It started, of course, with bacon and brussels sprouts. Then came the fajitas - which turned out OK, but a little too chewy. Then I successfully tackled lasagna - after my friend calmed me in the midst of a dating crisis with the wise words, "A lot can be healed with lasagna." There was even a side trip into baking apple pie, which I have lots of practice at - I seem to be more comfortable baking. Or just more motivated to eat those baked treats.

Then, last Monday I read my favorite food/love/life blogger and came home to happily make her latest recipe for dinner. This might seem pretty ordinary to some people. But to me? Miraculous. Cooking on a weeknight just feels like way too much unnecessary frustration. And I am often limited to certain foods or textures as dictated by my emotional state, like my fascination with cottage cheese and rice crackers when I have an angry need to crunch but a milky comforting longing as well. In general, I often don't feel satisfied with a meal unless it somehow involves cheese. I probably ate Trader Joe's frozen pizza and a wild greens salad at least four nights a week for about two years. I'm still not sure exactly what emotional need that was filling, but the compulsion seemed like a little more than really liking pizza.

But the point is that something may finally be shifting inside of me. With some help and new perspective on food itself. This blogger, Shauna, gives recipes and directions but with rich context and an amazing passion for food. Like my friend with the lasagna advice, Shauna speaks in the language of textures, smells, and preferred taste more than exact volumes and specific amounts of time. The openness and focus on learning the process rather than rigidly following directions gives me the information, but with freedom. And the way she talks about food is teaching me to savor each aroma, color, and flavor with real creativity and love. Food not only can sustain life but enrich your life. It's not just something to fight against and control and resent. Who knew?!

And enjoying my kitchen tools really helps - I am in love with my cast iron pans (thank you Uncle Jim). There is something so timeless and wholesome about them. Seasoning them feels like caring for old friends. I picture pioneers cooking with them over open campfires and grandmothers with rich equatorial skin pulling them out of outdoor clay ovens. And they work really well.

This week I was inspired enough to feel like it was creative and fun. So I made Shauna's savory black beans. (The grape tomatoes on the top make it a masterpiece - I couldn't find yellow, but red were delicious.) I cooked them along with some rice, quick chili-lime prawns, and roasted asparagus. And enjoyed myself.

File under: small victories and simple delights... like actually using my sewing room to sew. I know, I'm getting it. Sometimes it just takes me a while.

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