I am not a cook; I just want to make that clear. I only recently got into cooking dinner and baking in my senior year of high school. For some reason, I felt the need to occupy my time with something other than social media. Yet, social media is exactly what allowed me to pursue cooking and baking as a hobby—or at least something I would do from time to time.
My original experience with cooking and baking was neither comforting nor positive. I managed to burn myself on almost every easy dish we concocted in Family and Consumer Science (Home Ec.) classes in middle school: microwave apple cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, even homemade popcorn. Whether it was the slip of a hand against the baking pan, or touching the dish before it had cooled completely, I was bound to sport a bright red fingertip or appendage. And if I didn’t burn myself, I was just as liable to spill something.
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child
So when I decided I wanted to learn how to cook, I was terrified of messing up recipes and having the dish turn out to be the worst piece of chicken, vegetable, cookie, or muffin imaginable. But, I also liked the idea of experimenting in a kitchen that hadn’t seen a home cooked meal or sweet treat made from scratch in some time.
Bored over the winter and spring seasons my senior year of high school, I used Pinterest to find some recipes that coincided with a new healthy regime I’d started and that would taste delicious. My first dinner I made parmesan crusted chicken and spinach. Sure enough, the hot oil would simmer and occasionally pop, splashing me on the hand, creating little burns. But that didn’t deter me. Neither did the complicated recipe for a batch of oatmeal banana walnut cookies. And, I found that even though I was slow, I could create a dish that was tasty and worth the tedious prep time and execution. I even found a calming, therapeutic aspect to it once the fear of messing up passed.
In cooking as in life, you need to convince yourself to do something at which you might first be bad. How else are you going to find new activities that you enjoy and can share with others? That’s what cooking and baking gave me: enjoyment, relaxation, and connection. Not only did it allow me to practice some practical life skills (as a college student getting ready to embark on life after cafeteria and family-provided meals I’m going to need to learn how to feed myself), but it also allowed me to connect on a different level with the people closest to me.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
I started out making the oatmeal banana walnut cookies with Amanda, my best friend. And, as we would add ingredients, eventually spooning dollops of our mixture to bake in the oven at one o’clock in the morning, we would share what was going on in our lives, divulging information and working through difficult problems together. The dinners I made brought my family to the table at least once that week, working around hectic work and basketball schedules that more often than not had constituted microwavable meals and quick sandwiches to be consumed on the road or in between events. This time with friends and family is invaluable, especially when life gets in the way of quality interaction.
Cooking and baking, although it takes time and effort and although you might not get it right the first time, it gives you something more valuable: a connection with loved ones that goes beyond a passing conversation or afternoon sitting together watching television. It’s something tangible that shows them how much you care and appreciate them. And, it shows you how to get out of your comfort zone while taking care of yourself.
Never in my life did I think I would be a good cook or a decent baker (I’m probably not and my family might be lying to me), but I had to actually try to find out. I’m so glad I did. And, although I can’t cook every night (I could try but I’m lazy), I can at least make time once a week while I’m home to engage in the therapy of creating something for myself and others to enjoy. Like today, I made muffins. I made my own changes to the recipes, and they might not turn out professionally as they would on television, but hopefully they’ll be good. Even if they aren’t, they were made with love.
Featured in Pictures:
Blueberry Muffin recipe from SimplyTaralynn
Banana Chocolate Chip recipe from AmbitiousKitchen
Asparagus Sweet Potato Chicken Skillet recipe from Primavera Kitchen