Cooking Dinner: A Journey to Self-Discovery

          Now I know that making dinner for myself or even for another person shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it is for me. There is a lot of self consciousness and lack of confidence that I have associated with myself and cooking. I haven't had to cook much for myself in my lifetime because my father has always been a big fan of cooking meals. He always experimented with cooking and took risks with it but also had a solid foundation of culinary skill from years of practice. I've always admired this about my dad, and I used to help him when he would cook meals for the family but as I got older and had to stay after school (in high school) for extracurricular activities or worked late during the summers, or now when I have work and school, I'm typically not home until after all the cooking is already done. It wasn't until last year that I realized how stunted my cooking skills were when my mom asked me to make dinner one night. It was in this moment that I felt an immense amount of shame and embarrassment for not knowing what to do. Because of these feelings of embarrassment, I did the very mature thing to do when faced with a difficult task, I shied away from cooking as much possible. But in the pit of my stomach, I still felt a want to be able to cook decent meals for the sake of independence. I knew that I didn't want to be a 20-something-year old who relies on take-out as her main form of sustenance. First of all that's expensive, second of all it is not healthy.

          Even still, I wasn't faced with any real cooking challenges until this week. My sister and her husband left on vacation and hired me to dog/house sit while they were away. Typically they stock the house with pasta and alfredo sauce so that I don't starve and because pasta is the only thing I feel comfortable making. But this time there was not many ingredients left in the fridge and I didn't want to just eat pasta for the next seven days.

          With a few meals in mind and with my boyfriend (Alex)/house sitting mate by my side we drove to the wonderful Fred Meyer shopping center and loaded up a cart with fresh vegetables and what not. It was a wild ride and made me feel a lot older and put together than I actually am. Let me just tell you something about shopping for ingredients, it is expensive. It is especially expensive when you are trying to eat healthy and I know that is common knowledge with our society but my goodness, it was ridiculous.

          I also learned a lot of things about myself shopping for actual ingredients, I get very scatter brained in grocery stores and it makes me incredibly irritable and flustered. I tried to keep myself together and get the shopping done as soon as possible as I wanted to get home so I could relax, but really I just ended up being bossy and cranky. Grocery shopping is something that I should probably work on. I should probably do some sort of breathing and relaxation exercises before I go in and I should probably avoid going at 5:30pm on a Monday night. But in the end we got what we needed and I would say all in all it was a successful trip.

          When we got home I was adamant about being the only one to cook that night. It was pasta so I felt safe enough but with other ingredients that needed to be prepared separate from the pasta I knew I could easily get flustered. The last time I tried to make pasta, other than just sauce and noodles, for other people I forgot to add all of the seasonings and it ended up being rather bland and I was disappointed with myself. But this time I figured I'd work my way up with the first night being chicken, bacon, spinach pasta with alfredo sauce. I made it entirely on my own, much to Alex's dismay (he kept asking to help and I kept kicking him out of the kitchen). I was happy that it turned out so well, we ate it quickly and I enjoyed every bite while Alex gave me his compliments. I felt content with what I had done and even inspired to cook more. The next night we got home particularly late and gave in and got take-out from a Thai restaurant in North Pole.

          The following night we went grocery shopping for more ingredients as there was one recipe that Alex really wanted to try out, lemon chicken piccata. He did an incredible job and was a lot more welcoming to help than I was when I was making dinner. We had a side of asparagus with his chicken and it was all so good. Especially for someone who hasn't had very many cooked vegetables in a while, it was heavenly. Though the food felt too fancy for us, as we ate it in our pajamas on a small corner of the once clear table that had been taken over by our books and notes and laptops. But either way it was good and we had fun!
          Last night was probably my proudest moment in my short life as a cook. I really wanted to make something with quinoa. It has been a new love of mine, having only recently been introduced to it at Dine49. I like it as a substitute for rice and I honestly could probably just eat a bowl of quinoa and be perfectly content. But I had never made it before and I knew Alex probably wouldn't just enjoy a big bowl of plain quinoa so I thought of things that might go good with it. We had a large amount of chicken that still needed to be made before it went bad so I knew that that would be a good start. Alex diced the chicken and seasoned and cooked it to perfection. While with the power of the Internet, I taught myself how to make quinoa and spinach using chicken broth. After the chicken (the tomatoes I tried to add fully disintegrated, failed attempt to add more ingredients) was done cooking and the quinoa had soaked up all of the broth we mixed the two together with the spinach. While Alex cooked the last of the asparagus I decided on the fly that we needed more vegetables. I googled how to steam broccoli in a microwave and did it! It was a lot of impromptu work and failed attempts to jazz it up but all in all we ended up with a pretty solid meal that I am proud of.

     So I guess what this whole cooking experience has taught me is that just because I think that I am bad at something doesn't mean that I always have to be, doesn't even mean that I really am bad at it. It is really hard to admit to yourself when you are legitimately not good at something but it is even harder to open yourself up to the possibility of further failure. I think that even though this is such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, it is an important realization I've had for my life. I hope you just don't accept that you may be bad at some things, I hope that you push yourself to do better, and ultimately I hope that you know that failure is not what defines us, it's what we do with that failure that does.

          So with that little nugget of wisdom, I will conclude this rather lengthy blog by saying thank you for reading and have a wonderful holiday break!

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