I’m not a nutritionist, a doctor, a health coach, a chef or cook for pay, a recipe maker or anything like that.
But I feel like there’s seriousness and elitism with food and foodmakery (yes, I’m legitimizing that as a word), that is alienating and sad and I think it needs to change. And I just love food.
So: you don’t have to be afraid of handling food. You also don’t have to proclaim you’re some kind of expert. And you especially don’t need to dance around and within this strict dichotomy when it comes to feeding and nourishing YOU.
Here’s what I suggest:
Make food like you’re making it for a small child.
What does this mean?
Start your foodmakery from a standpoint of nutrition.
Little ones are growing. From their bones to their brains, they need heaps of healthy vitamins, minerals and proteins. What would you make for a kid? Now, make it for YOU.
Let’s say you’re hungry. You peek in the fridge. Contents include: 1 head of lettuce, half an avocado, some plain Greek yogurt, 1 egg. You open the cupboard: bag of dried lentils, whole grain pasta, sunflower seeds, dried cherries. Grab it all and put it on the counter. These are the building blocks of your creation-to-be.
Side note: if your home doesn’t have healthy staples, go get some. They don’t have to be the most expensive brand or variety, but check that they don’t have unnecessary sugars and mysterious chemicals and colorants. Look for few ingredients or whole ingredients and DEFINITELY try buying foods you have no idea how to prepare, cook, cut or eat. This is where awesomeness is especially possible.
Have fun and experiment.
Ever grilled lettuce? Try it! How about puree avocado? Go for it! Had plain Greek yogurt in a savory dish? There’s a reason it’s trending! Know how to poach an egg? Seize the day!
When you set aside the time to cook, just you, for you (and perhaps anybody who loves you and your adventures), who cares if you screw stuff up? Burn the lettuce. Next time, maybe you’ll coat it with olive oil to help survive the heat better. Throw the whole damn avocado in the blender, and see why you need to remove the peel and the pit from the avocado. Watch the poached egg turn to egg drop soup as the yolk breaks into your water. This is how we learn. Sometimes we are so caught up in doing things the right way and following instructions that we lose the joy in learning new things, wide-eyed and curious, like a child.
Want a quick example? I might try: pureeing the dried pasta, adding the egg, whisked, and using that as breading to coat and quickly fry the avocado. (This might be disgusting). I might cook the lentils and, once cooled, stir in some Greek yogurt and a spice or blend, (Garam Masala? Jamaican Jerk? Mustard seed and cumin?). Then, I might soak the dried cherries in… vinegar? Sure, vinegar. Chop the lettuce. Onto the plate goes: Lentils, avocado, lettuce, cherries, sunflower seeds.
Integrate it all: taste, flavor, knowledge.
Taste terrible? That’s okay! What could you do different? What would be helpful to learn? Watch a YouTube video on knife techniques. Follow a detailed recipe for delicate egg dishes. Pull out or thrift for old cookbooks. Ask a foodie friend to join you in cooking next time – maybe they could show you a thing or two.
Or, maybe it just needs a little salt. A little spice. A little richness. Play around. Smell, taste and edit your awesome creation. As with all creative endeavors, I strongly advocate creating freely, i.e. really get in the “flow,” and edit later. Critiquing as you create is really the only recipe for disaster.
Mostly, though, you should enjoy what you made. I’ve made numerous terrible meals for random evenings alone, and I eat them anyway. Perhaps it’s a matter of pride. Perhaps I don’t have anything else to eat. Or, perhaps I’m just eating like a hungry kid – hungry for new tastes, new challenges, new experiences, free of “success” or “failure.”