Due to my ongoing reflection of why I cook, I was rivited today by an essay read on NPR’s “This I Believe” broadcast. Mary Mrugalski wrote about making whole wheat bread by hand, and how this became such an integral part of her life when she found herself at 20, in love and unexpectedly pregnant. She concluded, “I believe in the power of healing, hearty, whole wheat bread, made by hand with love.” And that made me think about cooking and healing and the point at which I REALLY began to invest my heart into cooking.
I knew that I loved cooking, and I knew that I lost myself in the process, but I couldn’t really explain my relationship with cooking or my relationship with food. As I watched myself gain 20 pounds in a second marriage to a verbally-abusive man, I didn’t understand the power of food in my life; it was during the early point in my relationship with that man that I really threw myself into the kitchen, into recipes, and into some kind of structure that would help make my experience at that time seem normal and healthy.
Bal Arneson, the “Spice Goddess,” says, “I like to feel like I have a relationship with the food.” It was precisely that relationship on which I focused since the relationship that I thought I was building with “that man” seemed to be fizzling out faster than it lit fire. I could at least feel like I was nurturing my son in my custom-built kitchen.
In my cooking now, I realize that it’s all played part of the process in healing that Mary Mrugalski described. Cooking is a place to go when nothing seems right or as it should, the same as it is a place to go when the world is your oyster. Cooking nurtures a grieving soul, sorrowful heart and an elated spirit in different ways but it’s in the relationship with food & cooking that we allow ourselves feel whatever it is that we feel.