What’s Cooking

Maya, Anya, Aysa decorating cookies 2010

Entering into 2020 I am trying to figure out what I will be writing about moving forward.  I was talking to my best friend aka Latrice, she asked what is it about cooking that makes me light up.  She stated that she observed the way I write about my 14-year-old daughter when she cooks and how I have a love of cooking and wonder where it comes from.  

As you know if you read last year’s posts, I never had a secure home growing up.  I lived with grandparents, aunts, my mother,foster care, shelters, my father and stepmother, back to my grandparents, back with my mother and then finally on my own at the age of 23.  I think because I lived such a transit life growing up, I do not think I knew how to sustain a household on my own.  It wasn’t until I was engaged at 29.  My boyfriend had just purchased a house when we started dating that he shared with his brother, when we were engaged his brother moved out and me and my son moved in.  We lived there only four years and we lost the house due to an adjustable – rate mortgage (ARM) . This was in 2006 right before the US experienced the busting the housing bubble.  We then moved into a two-bedroom apartment owned by my in-laws.  I went from a small kitchen in a starter house to an impossible kitchen in a small apartment.  But now I had two children with one on the way and my niece trying to prepare meals.  I felt like I had it within me to cook really well, but was lacking the proper kitchen to cook in.  Three years later we moved into a town house that we knew was temporary while we were looking for a new house to purchase.  

Maya and Hayley baking cupcakes 2014
2018 Holiday cookies
Aysa, Anya, Maya, and Amari Holiday cookies 2012

In November of 2010 we found this beautiful three story century old town house.  It wasn’t finished and the developer allowed out to pick out the finishings including the everything in the kitchen.  For the first time in my life I felt like I had control over something.  I picked out the slate floors (which turned out to be way too cold during the winter) the glass subway tiles (that ended up being too busy with the granite countertops and island) and the granite that had to be switched out because the slab wasn’t big enough and my realtor ended up had to select one that we ended up getting.  I loved my kitchen, it was everything I needed to satisfy my inner Kitchen Diva.  So now that I have my space, where does this need to be the perfect home chef come from?

Whether it was my Grams, Mother, Aunt Shirley or foster mother I think the best times were in the kitchen.  My grandmother aka Grams could cook anything and in the early 90’s when everyone stopped eating pork, she switched to turkey without missing a step.  The last time we spoke on the phone was the day before she died, I called her to get her sweet potato pie recipe, but she was already in bed and reading a book that she wanted me to read.  The next morning I got the message she died while getting ready for church.  

My mother was always adventurous in the kitchen, she would keep making something over and over again until she found her perfect twist to it.  I think it started with the perfect bean pie, and then it was a no bake cheese cake, and the notorious potato salad(lets just say its now pink).  Holidays in all my homes was always a time where the family from just the nuclear with my mom to full extended with Grams, food and laughter.  Maybe it has been my quest to recreate those moments.  I also wanted to intentionally pass down my love of cooking to my children.  

The other side of my relationship with food is my history with eating disorders.  I was diagnosed with bulimia while I was in undergrad, but I had suffering with bulimia since I was 15 years old.  In 1988 I had moved to California to live with my fatheralong with his wife and my two younger siblings.  I was a big girl wearing a 14, my step mother was a former model and immediately wanted me to lose weight.  IT was right around this time I saw an after school special about a teen who suffered from bulimia and it introduced me to binging and purging.  My problem was I wouldn’t really binge.  At one point, I was nearly anorexic but still purging, then in college I developed workout bulimia.  I was my smallest, but I was so very unhealthy.  It was a friend that told me purging cannot be an option for me.  If I eat something that makes me uncomfortable I will have to live with it.  I had to change my relationship with food.  I had to learn to respect it as a tool my body needed to sustain itself.  

With my new kitchen I can love the entire process of preparing a meal, from planning the weekly menu to grocery shopping, but I found refuge in my kitchen.  I had the space that allowed me to do everything I needed.  The kitchen became my sanctuary.  There I would experiment with recipes like my mother.  I do not eat beef, fish or pork so I became creative with creating dishes only using turkey and chicken.  I started baking and my favorite was recreating dishes that my Grams use to prepare.  

Now going into 2020 me and my daughter are cooking plant base, trying really hard to get my youngest and husband on board.  As a Kwanzaa gift, I purchased a meal plan through Hello Fresh and selected vegetarian menu for Maya.  Last week we were introduced to dishes that I would never had tried or prepare.  Last year we moved from St. Louis to Atlanta and went from my massive kitchen to a smaller apartment kitchen.  Once I was able to get my pots and pans (a set my mother gave me back in 2005) and my wooden spoons, my joy of cooking returned.  Cooking has been my way of paying homage to my seniors, a way to provide nutrition for my family, and bring joy to those I cook for those I am privilege to cook for.  

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