Monday, May 22, 2006

My Relationship With Food

So, back to blogging about food. Not that what I want to write about right now is exactly about food per se, but more about my journey around and with food, and about the people that helped me on the road to respecting food and eating better. And the tips for doing just that.

Let me set the stage… I have spent my whole adult life knowing that something was wrong, knowing that the way I was cooking and the things I was cooking were leaving something to be desired, but I didn’t know how to fix it, what else to do, how to change my crazy ways.

So my basic challenges around food were… I hated cooking, I hated shopping, and I hated eating. When I was in a phase of trying to turn that around and “be good with food”, I would go to the store, buy a whole bunch of “good food” and then wait for inspiration to strike, to decide on some excellent meal to make. But then, when the mood finally hit me, I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed. How could that be? I had just been shopping, I had tons of good food in the house. But you see none of it went together. No recipe called for cabbage and basil (or not one that I know of, but now with the internet, I am sure I could look it up and find SOMETHING!?!?). So I would end up with rotting food in my fridge and eating out. Again. Or worse, eating the ever so easy… cheese and crackers. Yikes that is a tumour waiting to happen. What about leafy greens? What ever happened to Omega 3 oils? What about food full of anti-oxidants? I didn’t have time, or the organizational skills to make it work. Or so I thought.

So how did things change? It started with having dinners over at my friend Madeleine’s house. I would come over, and she would gaze absentmindedly into her fridge and take things out that I had no idea how she planned to combine to make us a meal. But she did. And it was always fabulous. Fabulous! How? It boggled my mind. So I just kept watching and learning. After some time I noticed patterns in her work. She had certain staples always on hand. But good staples. Not like my cheese staples. And she knew certain foods that were friends. But even so, she did this other thing, she was always ad libbing, free pouring, making up the proportions as she went along. It was a beauty to behold. And slowly I learned my way into it. I started trusting myself, which is really what she does I think. And I started experimenting and being willing to be wrong and be ok with that. But truly, when you know the basics, that being which foods are best friends, which are acquaintances and which are enemies, things get easier fast.

But how does one learn that, especially without a mentor? Here is what I did. I started perusing the cook book aisle in the book store. And I would leaf through various books, until I found some I liked. And those I would buy. Or when at friend’s houses, I would ask them about their favourite cook books, and look through them. I would see recipes I liked, and would get excited about making them. It would inspire me. And that got me moving.

The final piece? I took a class. No, not on cooking. That is easy enough, I can follow a recipe. So a class on what, you ask? Well, it is a bit hard to say in one catchy line (which might be why she is no longer offering them). They were about being prepared. About getting your act together. See, neither of those lines makes it appealing, so let me just describe it. She had these weekly calendar sheets of paper, and on them we would write down what commitments we had that week, so that we knew, realistically (this might be the key right here) when we could cook meals and when leftovers could work, etc. Then she had us go through our favourite cookbooks and pick out meals we were drawn to and likely to make. Then we wrote down which meals we were hoping to make on which days, as well as what page and what book they were from. We wrote the book and pages right there, next to the name, so as not to have to hunt to find them later on. Then on the back of the calendar we were to list all the ingredients that we needed but didn’t already have for those recipes, for that week. Now we had our shopping list. We were to go, and buy all those things and no more, and trust that we had all the right ingredients (and no more) to make those meals. Then, as each day came, we had our meals to make already all planned out, with the recipe close at hand, all the ingredients right there, and no pesky decisions to make (that is one of the things that always slows me down in those moments, “What shall I make, what shall I make?”).

For me it works. Not perfectly, but better than any system I was using before. And now I don’t have food going rotten in the bottom drawer, I don’t skip meals, I don’t need to eat out (unless I want to), and what is more, I am ready and it is easy to invite friends over for dinner. Over time I have started to develop a list of my favourite recipes (and even adjust them a bit) and through reading and using recipes that work, I have come to know what foods are friends with each other, and so I get more and more creative as I have come to trust myself.

Cancer threw a wrench in the works, another thing to adjust to, but now I had the skills to do that. And so, it was just a matter of fine tuning and learning more about what foods are good friends with cancer and what foods are its arch enemy. And trust me, there is plenty written about that. Over the next little while, as part of my blogging, I hope to throw in a few posts that highlight the friends and enemies of cancer and other such important tidbits. To encourage you to start exploring and branching out.

And one final nugget on this topic… the most important thing that I learned over the last 7 or so years about cooking is that it can be fun. In fact the more fun you make it, the easier it gets and the more rewarding it is. So, if cooking or cooking well has been a challenge for you, consider trying the above or some variation of it (as well as considering trying to make it FUN), as an experiment, and see how it turns out for you.


At 8:13 PM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

So how about posting some of your fav recipes to get us started? I'm in need of some ideas other than what's in the Heart Smart books! Sorry, but I hate fish! I'd rather take the essential oils in pill form!

At 1:32 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Great idea!

Once I am home again, and snuggled up with my favourite cook books, I will, with permission, post a few.

And for some inspiration in the meantime, I suggest checking out Dreena Burton's blog:

Great stuff!

At 1:35 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

And the link within this post

"Signy's Home Made Power Bars" has my own recipe which is published in Sally Errey's Staying Alive Cook Book (see my links page).

At 4:46 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1:44 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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