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THC WEEK 9: The Sweet Surrender of Home Cooking

We all know that home cooking is better for us than eating out or buying ready-made food at the store. However, what is it about home cooking that is so beneficial to mind, body and soul? There have been many studies done on the subject over the years.  In my mind, the most important difference is that most restaurants rely on commercially produced ingredients and use recipes with large amounts of fats and salt to make food taste good and serve you enough food on one plate for 3 people. If you are anything like me, if it’s sitting in front of you the likelihood that you will eat it is greater.  The ready-made, store bought dinners are full of sodium, preservatives and other things that can be detrimental to your health. When you cook at home, the food is often healthier than any other because you have complete control over what you are putting in it.  This is an added benefit if you or a family member has food allergies. 

Most people think that nothing can be quicker than driving through the local fast-food place but how many times have you gone to your favorite drive through and there is a line around the building.  Many times, a quick healthy meal at home can be had in less than 30 minutes and you get the added bonus of being able to multi-task because you aren’t stuck in your car. If there are recipes you want to make that take longer, there are many solutions for that weekday rush.  Slow-cookers, instant pots, and meal prep are all designed to make home cooking fit into your busy schedule.  In addition to fitting your schedule, it is insanely easier on your wallet.  I was having a conversation with my adult son last week about budgeting.  He informed me that he and his girlfriend had spent a whopping $900 in eating out in the previous month and they realized that it was unsustainable.

Dan Watson/The Signal

The benefit that dovetails to this is the fact that when you cook at home, you are more mindful about what you are eating and because of this you don’t use as many high calorie-low nutrient foods, along with portion control, this naturally helps you to eat less at each meal.  For a while, I turned eating into a meditation.  Putting my fork down between bites, actually tuning into and savoring, not only every nuance of the food I was eating, but also how that food actually made me feel.  Developing that awareness of my food as information to my body was an incredibly powerful experience.

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When you cook at home, it can become a family affair.  The kids or partner can be equally involved.  You can get together with friends to created themed meals together.  It begs a very intimate level of socialization to prepare and eat your food together. Traditionally and historically, meal times were enjoyed in groups.  It gives you a chance to talk and support each other.  Especially for children, studies show that when we eat together, our kids and family are much healthier. Eating together is linked to less obesity, kids doing better in school, and less substance abuse within the family.

One of the things that I love most about cooking is that it allows me to be creative in an entirely different way.  It gives me space to be intuitive about what tastes good.  When I am in the kitchen, it feels like an entirely different part of my brain comes online. It relieves stress, it teaches analytical/mathematical thinking (recipes), it gives me a way to express myself through food, it builds confidence, resilience and connection to the earth.  I pour intention into my cooking, I fill my creations, not only with good food, but also that special ingredient you cannot buy anywhere… LOVE! The mental health benefits of this are beyond what can be measured.

I grew up in a family full of cooks.  Both of my grandmothers were amazing cooks.  Neither of them measured anything and cooked both from years of doing it and a fair amount of intuition.  My parents both cooked as well. My mom used recipes but altered them entirely from their original forms. My dad cooked what he was taught by his mom but way spicier.  My grandfather owned a pizzeria, my cousin owns a family restaurant, my dad owns a chain of restaurants and I worked as a cook for the better part of 25 years.  You could say that cooking is kind of in the genetics.  Unfortunately, many people grew up with parents that don’t cook and have no idea where to start.

My first tip is don’t get intimidated, I have been cooking since I could use a chair to reach the stove and I still try things that, occasionally, end up in the trash! Even if it doesn’t come out 5-star, it is, usually, at a minimum, still edible (keep food safety in mind).  Now you know what not to do again.  There will some things that you just can’t figure out.  I have tried so many variations of fried rice more times than I will ever care to think about and it never comes out right.  I have had recipes, had someone show me, it just isn’t my thing.  It happens.  Know your strengths and weaknesses going in. I love ethnic food of every variety and many ingredients are hard to find.  Source well or find verifiable substitutes.  There is literally a recipe for everything on the internet but remember that each recipe is simply one person’s interpretation of that dish and yours might look entirely different.  The most important thing is that you ENJOY it!

I highly recommend getting a few cookbooks that don’t JUST have recipes.   If you are a beginner, a standard book about basic cooking techniques is invaluable when you are starting out.  For me, I will never be without my copy of The Joy of Cooking.  Roughly 800 hardbound pages of tips, techniques, basic cooking times, substitutions and classic recipes.  It is like an encyclopedia for cooks.  Another, if you can find it, is the English translation of the Larousse Gastronomie, it does deal heavily with French cooking but every edition since the original in 1938 has included more and more international techniques and recipes.  The internet has recipe rabbit holes like you couldn’t imagine and YouTube is a treasure trove for techniques.

If you still feel intimidated, have a friend show you, take a local cooking class either as a group or by yourself.  Many chefs offer classes on various styles or techniques.  Parks and recreation and local community centers are also good places to look for classes.  You would be amazed to find there are many people who are willing to show off their favorite meal.  One of my favorite things to do with recipes is to find ways to incorporate more vegetables, make them healthier and not lose any of the original flavor.  

I hope this has helped you feel a little more confident in trying your hand at a new way of getting healthy and creative. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or contact me through the blog or social media. 

Stay blessed.

Stay balanced.

I hope you have an amazing week!

By Stargazer

I am a lifelong learner. I have lived experience in many, many forms but what I hold dear is my connection with the land, my spirituality, my ancestors and teaching others that there is another way to live besides the current offering!

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