What Learning to Cook Taught Me About Life

I’ve never been much of a cook or a baker.

For a long time this made me pretty insecure, mostly because I thought cooking and baking were automatic rights of passage into womanhood. I also assumed cooking was complex and intimidating. There were so many steps, so many recipes, so many utensils and tools.

Not only did I lack the proper appliances but I felt I lacked the proper innate traits of womanhood to prepare an elaborate Southern Living meal. 

Rather than actually disliking cooking I was merely intimidated by the unknown and, to be quite honest, didn’t want to try something and fail miserably.

I, like many Americans, migrated out of the kitchen and stumbled around restaurants or relied on grocery stores and other companies to do the cooking for me. Best case scenario I would “fix” a meal, which usually meant adding water or sticking it in the oven for a few minutes. All too often I was more than happy to relinquish cooking responsibilities to big corporations or even local restaurants. It spared me time and kept me from looking like a fool.

But my cooking habits took a complete 180 when I started my first round of Whole30.

Whole30 is about using clean, fresh, wholesome ingredients to prepare real food. Unfortunately you’re not likely to find that in the frozen foods section or in the drive thru. Impending starvation drove me to desperation. I stood in front of my stove ready to tackle the challenge of actually feeding myself.

Here's what I learned as I stumbled around my kitchen for 30 days (and the months since):

Creating something is vulnerable.

In order to keep ourselves sane and from going broke my roommates and I took turns cooking dinner for one another. At first it was stressful. I poured over recipes on Pinterest looking for the perfect meal. I wanted my dinners to be everyone’s favorite and I agonized over exactly what ingredients would satisfy my household audience.

There’s something vulnerable about the creative process. Every time I cooked I set the meal down in front of my roommates and even though I would say, “I hope you like it” I was actually thinking, “I hope you like me.”

It was a humbling process to put myself out there for the first time rather than hide behind someone else’s creation. It was a delicate moment watching my roommates take their first bites and wait for the criticism or praise that would surely follow.

Creating something, whether it’s a meal or a song or a book, is an extension of who we are. By using a few raw ingredients we’re offering up pieces of ourselves to be warmly received or coldly critiqued. It takes time, energy, and vulnerability to bring something to life. Whether we enjoy that creation or not we can at least humbly receive it knowing the person who made it gave it everything they had. At the end of the day they tried and that’s more than most of us can say.

Quicker isn’t always better.

Good food takes time to prepare. I think we’re so used to quickly consuming mindless calories that we’ve lost the joy of not only cooking but also eating. If I wanted to create a meal worth enjoying it was going to take time- planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and then eating.

From start to finish each meal took a decent amount of time. Meals weren’t an afterthought but instead a very thoughtful and labor-intensive process. Honestly, this felt really intimidating at first but eventually I realized that the best things in life are worth waiting for, which includes food.

The best relationships are the ones that grow slowly and steadily over time. We love the people who have stuck with us through thick and thin, who will go the distance, who have seen us at our worst and still choose us despite it. The best jobs are the ones we’ve worked towards, dreamed about, and chased after. We cherish vacations because we dream about them and plan out the details and thoughtfully plan.

Things like food, friendships, and faith don’t happen overnight. They’re slow grown and hard fought. In the long run, they’re worth it because they were an investment rather than an afterthought.

Quality over quantity.

I hate to say this but a lot of food isn’t actually food. At least, not the way it was intended to be. The food we’re accustomed to eating typically starts off as a chemical or at least gets pumped full of them before finally making it to the table. There are preservatives, dyes, chemicals, processes, and a whole bunch of other things to “enhance” our food experience.

I learned it doesn’t take much to make something delicious. Rather than needing a whole laboratory of chemicals to create a semi-decent meal I could take a few simple ingredients to cook something delicious. The better the foundation the better the result.

I learned to live with a lot less. I didn’t need the elaborate or the extreme or the processed. I just needed something real and tangible, something I could dig my teeth into.

It’s really easy to settle for the cheap, the fake, the over-processed when we’re all dying for something real and organic. It’s easy to choose the fake friendships when we so desperately want to be known in the context of authentic community. It’s convenient to settle for one night with a stranger when really we would love a lasting and safe relationship. We hide behind our highly curated, easily airbrushed Instagram accounts and wonder why we feel so incredibly alone.

When we pursue a life of less we end up getting so much more. Less clutter, less fake, less processes and more of the good stuff that fills us up. We end up with more abundant and authentic relationships, more free time to pursue what we’re passionate about, and richer experiences all because we started from a solid foundation of less.

All of that to say, you're invited to my house for dinner. Name the time and the place and let's crack open a bottle of wine.