Being that it is my twenty-sixth birthday, I felt like a more personal post was in order. When I’m in the kitchen, I find myself thinking a lot about what got me standing in front of my Iowa shaped cutting board. Most people my age seem to stay out of the kitchen. My husband can barely make a good pasta (I love you baby). How did I get here? Why did I start cooking in the first place? It wasn’t fond memories in the kitchen with my family, really. It was just one thing, an autonomous decision that I made early in life, perhaps my first ever.
It was December. I was twelve years old. My family had been in a car accident involving a deer, and even though nothing had really changed from before the accident, I was inspired to take over the kitchen. Not that there was much to take over: only one burner on the stove worked. I can’t tell you how long the oven had been dead. I cut my veggies with a steak knife because it was all we had, and I cut them on the back of an engraved cutting board we received as a gift. I am now sure it wasn’t made for use because it warped and snapped down the middle after a few years of use.
To this day, I don’t know why I tried. Maybe it was Rachel Ray on TV, a desire to make things better at home. It made me feel a little bit better about a life I did not enjoy or understand. Unless I was cooking, I was just a ghost waiting for things to change. The apparent hardship of cooking in those conditions was just life. I didn’t know any better. My parents would take me to the store, and I would do the grocery shopping. They just paid.
They suffered through steaks covered in Cayenne Pepper, all manner of monstrosities as I made my own ‘recipes’ for dinner. That was almost fourteen years ago now, and here I am writing for my own food blog. I have bought my own knives and cutting boards (plural for both. Amazing). I own a kitchenaid, a fully working stove and oven, a food processor, and a keurig machine. I can bake my own fucking bread. In some way, these things make me feel like the master of my own life. I had control over something, anything, and I have only gained more control of it as I grew up.
What I learned now nourishes my husband and I, literally and metaphorically. I get so much joy out of cooking. It isn’t about control anymore. I can share these skills, give the fruits of my labor to the people I love. In turn, food has given me much. I would not be who I am today without cooking. It’s a therapy. It’s a practice of love that, like me, gets better with every day that passes. I came to love food because it made me feel like I had something under my control. I love it still because I can give from it freely.
If nothing else, my journey through food is a reminder that everything can and does get better. Where do I have to go but up? These are the things I remind myself of when I begin to waiver. The onion and the bulb of garlic cracked and skinned on my cutting board are reminders every day that nothing is forever. All pain goes away. All darkness must pass into light. If a little heat from an electric stove can make a meal of disparate ingredients, why can't a hard life make a masterpiece out of a child who wanted to give up?
So with these thoughts, I say thank you. Thank you for reading my new project these last few months. Thank you for every view and visit that makes those little charts grow higher and higher. It means a lot to me that this experiment is being received by both friends and strangers. It means a lot to know that cayenne pepper steaks have lead to this.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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