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Food Friendly May: the Joy – or Not – of Cooking | Manolo for the Big Girl

Food Friendly May: the Joy – or Not – of Cooking

I love to cook. You may have guessed that from some of my writings.

I also love to be fed in restaurants. What? Everyone likes a break now and then, too.

When it comes to eating well, there are plenty of approaches to take. Different bodies perform better on different schedules, different amounts of food, different combinations of nutrients, and different ways of getting that food down the hatch, as it were.

Oh, yes, and different people have different levels of interest in making the food themselves.

You know, I bet there were even days when Paul Child came home after a hard day only to find Julia with her feet propped up on the coffee table announcing that dinner would be arriving in a pizza box or Chinese take out cartons in a few minutes.

What? I do that sometimes.

Most days my approach to cooking is to come up with a vague outline of what the evening meal will be when I’m standing in front of the butcher’s counter at my local grocery store or in front of the fridge at home. Then I start cooking. Things come together as I put them in the pan or the pot. Once in a while I start with an actual recipe, usually when trying out a new food I’ve never cooked before, but most days it’s pretty seat of the pants.

If, however, I know someone is coming over for dinner on a specific date, I approach the event with military precision. I have my cookbooks out days in advance, make grocery lists, determine a timeline, make certain I have considered every possible aspect of creating the meal from budget to oven space to food issues.

There are other people I know who plan every meal they cook carefully – and cook every meal three hundred sixty-five days a year, and people who have to go through and dust their stoves periodically because they just don’t cook for themselves. They eat out or order in pretty much every single day. I’ve known people who cook huge batches of stuff that they store in single (or family) sized meal containers until they need them, and people who can’t plan dinner until well after they’ve eaten lunch.

The thing is, there is no one approach to getting food into your body… and that’s okay. If it fits your budget and makes you happy (or at least contented) the majority of the time, then that’s the approach for you.

Any number of things may influence what works for you, and some of them will change over time. Your budget, schedule, cooking facilities, access to foodstuffs, equipment, physical and/or emotional condition, level of cooking knowledge, and personal preferences will all factor in to your decisions.

We all eat. If we don’t, our bodies and minds cannot function. We will die. It really is that simple. Whatever way we choose to get enough food into our bodies to function well is completely valid.

So how about all of you out there in Big Girl land? Do you cook most days? Are you famous for your call to the Chinese take out? Do you plan meals in advance or trust to instinct and the last minute? Could you store important documents in your broiler because you so seldom use it? Do you fondle your food processor when nobody is looking?

There is no right or wrong answer. There is no grade lurking in the corner. There’s just how people feed themselves. And as long as you’re getting sufficient food into yourself on a regular basis, it’s all good.

PS: I don’t fondle my food processor… but I have been known to gently goose my KitchenAide stand mixer, even in mixed company. I’m in love with it and I don’t care who knows. So there.

19 Responses to “Food Friendly May: the Joy – or Not – of Cooking”

  1. Ashley May 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I love this post! Yes exactly! There is no one right way to do it. My favorite way to feed myself? Varies. Thanks for honoring that.

  2. Denise May 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    I do love to cook with what I have and see what I come up with, but those days are long gone for me. If I don’t plan weekly menus, I’m just too tired to figure it all out at 6pm, you know? Luckily, my husband is open to eating anything (other than green vegetables!) I cook, but that being said, he does love Indian Home Cooking, which seems to involve hours of chopping and simmering. One short cut I finally got wise to was chopping equal weights of ginger and garlic together and then making a little rough paste with a bit of oil and salt. It keeps for a good week or more in the refrigerator. This is a HUGE time saver, because nearly everything I make calls for both of these.

  3. Linda Mercury May 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I love food. I love shopping for food, cooking, and I really love going out and seeing what other people do with food. For me, food is all about passion and sensuality.

  4. Twistie May 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    @Ashley: You’re welcome. I think one reason so many people get so phobic about food and eating is that there are so many different ways to eat and whichever one you choose, someone is standing there wagging a finger and trying to tell you it’s wrong with a capital WRONG. I don’t believe that. I think there are lots of possibilities and we all need to find the one (or ones) that work for us as individuals.

    @Denise: Is there anything that isn’t made better with a combination of garlic and ginger? Well, maybe one or two things, but that really is a combination I use a lot, too. I may have to try your trick of making them into a paste to use when wanted.

    @Linda Mercury: Is there anything more sensually delightful than a really gorgeous bunch of lemons you can smell from a foot away? Or the crunch of a good piece of lettuce? Or the soft give of a strawberry as it bursts its juices into your mouth?

    Whew! I need a lie down now. But I’ll be thinking about food.

  5. Toby Wollin May 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Well, it’s the three of us at home and usually someone says, “What are we doing for dinner” before we all wander out of the house. At THAT point, then whatever needs to get pulled out of the freezer gets thrown on a plate on the counter and if a shopping list needs to be made, it gets made and a volunteer is sought to do the fulfillment on the way home. Except on thursdays, which is bank night, when we all seem to get paid and we all go to the bank to do that and then reward ourselves for being good little economic citizens by going out to eat. And sometimes that means fast food and sometimes that means something fancier, but that is ok because the only hard and fast rule I’ve got is “Gotta be a place where I can get a decent salad.”

  6. Whitney May 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    A recent confirmation of carpal tunnel syndrome has put the lid on my near-nightly cooking (I would take the occasional night off when my utter lack of inspiration and/or my husband’s pleading not ot do dishes kicked in). My All-Clad and the Kitchen Aid (I too have soul-deep bond with my mixer) just stare at me whenever I walk into the kitchen and basically heat up other people’s food. Using my beautiful Wustoff for long is out the window, so no chopping or dicing or sling or paring or mashing or pasting or julienne or mincing…the whisk and the spoon are RIGHT OUT. I’m trying to teach myself to use my left hand, but I think my four-year-old grand-niece would be better at it. I miss cooking. I miss tasting my own food. I try to use pre-prepped ingredients as much as I can, but at some point cost and/or flavor just gets too much in the way. Who knew a simple pan sauce could be so difficult?

  7. Sarah Fowler May 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I cook every night I’m home, which means 2-5 nights a week. I keep meals planned two weeks out so I can only hit the grocery store every two weeks and neither waste food nor run out of a necessary ingredient. (I buy fresh produce at a market once a week.)
    I will sometimes do a multi-course meal if I’m home on a Friday night, but weeknight dinners have to be thirty minutes or less of prep time, done in under an hour. The other benefit of planning is that I’ve gotten the meat out to thaw the night before and known all day what I’m going to cook, so it’s harder to brush off.
    I also bring delicious leftovers for lunch at work so I’m not starving at noon and grab fast food or spend unnecessary money going out with the girls.
    (And yes I realize this makes me super anal but hey, it works for me!)

  8. barbara May 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m single; and it varies. I genuinely enjoy cooking, and I love cooking for friends and family. That usually involves preparation, but I don’t think as much military precision as in your case.

    However I work really long hours, and don’t cook too much those days. Sometimes I cook ahead of time and plan for leftovers, and sometimes I just eat out or order in. eat24hours.com is my friend!

  9. Leah May 9, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    I am sort of all of the above, as my husband works a 2on/2off shift on the north slope. When he is home, we have a mix of my recipes that he has been craving & his recipes that he enjoys having ready for me when I get home. Of course we like to go to a local favorite & have a weekend date night too. When he’s gone I go between take-out after a stressful work day or easy & quick sauteed veg dishes that he doesn’t love so much. We both love to cook & bake, so when the mood strikes we can make some pretty AMAZING stuff & we too have been known to treat our Kitchenaid like a favorite child…

  10. Miss B May 9, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I love cooking and I love food. :) For me, cooking is about the social, the bonding between folks. I’m single so I when I cook for just me I tend to make a big batch of something and portion it out for a few meals. However, I’m lucky to have a BFF who invites me to dinner a few nights a week with her and her hubby and we cook and have a meal together. I am even MORE lucky to have a special gentleman who love cooking and food as much as I do and making Sunday dinner is becoming one of our lovely rituals together.

  11. Kimks May 9, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Is it wrong that I have been known to “fondle” the Kitchen Aide Stand Mixers at the local William Sonoma? I do not have one of my own, basically because we have a tiny kitchen and there is no place to store it- the hand held will have to do until we get a bigger kitchen- then My Cuisinart Food Pro will have to share my love…

    We do a fine combo of all the above- I make a loose outline for the evening meal when we have our bi-monthly calendar meetings-yes we have calendar meetings- its the only way we can keep track of our crazy lives- my husband travels a lot and there are times when, if its not in my calendar I will loose track of him. Anyhow, the dinner outline pretty much just has the protein listed, and the side dishes just kind of come together.

    If I am having a big dinner party or just a straight out party, everything is planned to the ninth degree.

    One time saver I must share- I make a HUGE garden salad on Sundays and we have it for lunch and dinner until its gone, most weeks by Weds and then I’ll make up another one. If you keep it in the fridge with a damp paper towel on top in a sealed container, it will stay fresh for 4-5 days. You have to use grape tomatoes and add dressing and things that might get “slimy”(avocado, mushrooms, etc) as you use it. Doing this has guaranteed that we get some sort of fresh veggies every day.

  12. Kimks May 9, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    One More thing- I LOVE to cook- I am happiest when I am making food for people or causes I love. I am known for my food in our circle of friends. Our home is always open and as one of my friends said “You can’t go to Kim’s without being fed.” I suppose there are worse things to be known for.

  13. Orora May 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    It depends. I’m really more likely to can pickles than roast a chicken. I like to make things that will last, so most days I look at cooking like dusting: You do it and then you just have to do it again. Bor-ing!

    I do, however, love my crockpot in a way that’s probably not wholesome. You throw some stuff into it before work, magic happens and 8 hours later dinner’s ready. Since I’m not feeding an army, I always have leftovers too.

    The only occasion when I really have time or energy to cook is on the weekends. I’ve been known to stir up some black beans or a turkey meatloaf for reheating throughout the week. But honestly, most weeknight meals are nuked from a box.

  14. ZaftigWendy May 10, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    We have three teen/young adult kids at home, and I work evenings. With a big family like ours, takeout is just too expensive, so someone has to cook. I’m a better and more experienced cook than my husband, but because of the schedule, he has to cook at least 3 nights a week. So, we have a menu and recipes for him to follow. He’s getting better, and I’m becoming less critical.

    We’re also teaching the kids to cook, and one of them will do dinner once or twice a week.

  15. Kate May 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    I love cooking but have little money to do it properly >_< I've just discovered a passion for french onion soup with perhaps just a dash too much wine ;)

    And I've never fondled a food processor either…but I do talk to it.

  16. Holls May 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I ~LOVE~ to eat, but I’m mystified by people who enjoy cooking. I hear that I’m good at it, but to me it is the ultimate drudgery. I have a deal with my husband, wherein he takes me out to nice dinner 2 times in a calender month, and I cook 3 times in the same period. The rest of the time we go out (less lavishly) or forage for ourselves. If we have children, certainly I will cook for them, but as long as I have a job also, ‘cooking for him’ isn’t my job. :D

  17. HurricaneDeck May 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I cook most every night of the week. The only nights that I do not cook is when really, I don’t want to clean up after myself! I enjoy cookbooks, menu planning, shopping, the cooking process itself, thinking of new ways to enjoy old favorites or expanding my culinary knowledge. Currently, I am on a Thai kick! I am fortunate enough that my spouse enjoys everything that I make – I have yet to have him say he didn’t enjoy something.

    I find it very entertaining that his lunch box has become something of mystery and speculation at the coal mine where he works – but we’ve never had anyone turn down a dinner invitation!

  18. Margie May 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I LOVE to cook!!! especially for parties and get-togethers. I only hate cooking when it is a weekday, 5 o’clock. usually though I will plan meals for the week ahead. That way my husband and I can do shopping for the week in one trip and I know we will have meals for the week. All we do is look through our calendars, decide what days we will be home for dinner, decide what we are going to do for food on the nights we are not home, loosely make a menu for each “home” day, purchase groceries, and start the work week. My favorite days are those in which my husband decides that we need to watch a ppv fight or big game and we can only do it at the sports bar! Then I have a night off from cooking AND I can have one too many beers or margaritas!!!

  19. wildflower May 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Wow. I neither love nor hate cooking, but I do it frequently and only eat out for social and/or business reasons. I put cooking on the same pleasure scale as, say, showering. I enjoy it mildly, but I do it more for reasons of health and well-being than for direct pleasure in the act.