Whether Sunday meal prepping for the week or building myself a mid-afternoon snack, I’m always thinking about my connection to the food that I cook and eat, and especially how it all makes me feel. Cooking is the only time I feel truly grounded in myself and in tune to my body and mind. I am not a chef or even a "professional" home cook, whatever that means. I’m just an individual who enjoys cooking and sees it as both a stress reliever and an act of self love.
Throughout my cooking adventures, misadventures, writing, reading, and photographing, I've come to realize that cooking is an incredibly personal experience that cannot be compared to that of others. It doesn’t matter, at least in my opinion, whether you’re a seasoned chef or someone who enjoys cooking for themselves occasionally. I am not discrediting professional chefs in the slightest, by the way. Rather, I am telling you that it’s okay to not know how to chiffonade herbs or even what the hell that means. It’s okay to make the same pasta dish every week for lunch. It’s okay to slump down after a long day at work, make a piece of rocky mountain toast for dinner [pictured above], and indulge in all of its simplistic deliciousness. Cooking and eating are your own experiences always, so consider this essay absolution for any past, present, or future shame, guilt, jealousy, and spitefulness towards those you think cook better than you.
Cooking has become a way for me to reconnect with my past, carve out my own space in the future, and keep me grounded in the present. With all the stress of being first and foremost, a human being with real emotions, and also a twenty-something year-old with new and often unfamiliar and daunting adult responsibilities, it is all too easy to drown in insecurity, anxiety, loneliness & fear.
I find cooking to be the most therapeutic hobby for me. It’s not only a stress reliever, it’s also an escape when life gets too noisy, a creative outlet, and a humble reminder that I am the only person who can create my own happiness. Cooking has also become an avenue to explore what it means to be unapologetically me.
Some people discover all this in music, painting, yoga, sports, or travel. Through cooking, I’ve been able to dig deeply into my past self, including parts of me I’ve avoided getting to know better. I’ve found a meaningful way to express myself and share my love with and empathy for others. As a bonus, I’ve somehow seemed to turn it all into the beginnings of a potential future career path. I’ve developed better self-care habits through cooking, as it truly is the purest form of the practice - to provide sustenance, nourishment, and healing to the body. I also found an opportunity to carve out dedicated time to enjoy much needed peace and quiet in my life; not to mention the only time I’m physically detached from my phone or temporarily away from a computer screen.
Cooking isn’t meant to be a source of stress or tension in life. Yet, with the lifestyles most of us lead, cooking has become just that. I don’t blame you if you feel this way. When we work late and spend less time at home, all we want is our meals to instantly appear in front of us at our kitchen table.
It was helpful for me to re-imagine how cooking could contribute positively to my life, rather than be a trigger of stress and exhaustion. This started with carving out time to discover and test a few go-to dishes that worked for me, my palette, and how much time I was willing to dedicate to cooking. For some people, that could be as simple as a citrus and avocado salad or as time and labor intensive as a brisket. For me, it's Shakshukah. Regardless of what you cook, the process of making it should be just as enjoyable as how it tastes.
It took a lot of work to make cooking part of a daily routine, not to mention something I actually enjoyed spending time doing. Eventually, something clicked and it began to feel natural. Not only because I literally had to cook in order to eat [I terminated my meal plan when I moved off campus junior year of college], but because it turned into an activity where my brain could shut out the rest of the day’s worries and focus on the one thing at hand - creating something that will make me, and only me, feel good.
I think that’s what has driven me to cook so often and to share those experiences with others. Cooking is an opportunity to get to know myself better and figure out what makes me feel like the best version of myself. It has also taught me something I continue to work on - having patience with myself and others. The physicality of cooking - the kneading, the stirring, the chopping, gives me the patience I need to enjoy the process, not just the delicious end result.
At their cores, cooking and eating are acts of survival. We cook to eat, we eat to survive, and we nourish our bodies with what it needs. It’s equally an act of self love whether purposeful or subconscious, and is incredibly personal. You should never feel embarrassed, shameful, or unintelligent because of the way you like to cook and eat. You are giving your own body what you know it needs to feel good, and that’s all that matters in my book.