I miraculously, amazingly, heroically turned into a good cook. Like any lifestyle change, this didn’t come easily or without casualties. It took 41 years, 2 leg veins, and at least a hundred brain cells, but taste this three-cheese risotto.
When I was fifteen, Aunt Mimi asked me to put a meal together.
“I’m not domestically inclined,” I said.
Growing up in a family of talented culinary artists meant I didn’t have to do anything except eat and maybe gain a few pounds out of sheer respect.
As I grew older, Mom tried to influence me, but I took to her kitchen like I took to her Barry Manilow records and Catechism books.
Many people find fulfillment and satisfaction cooking for others and I always found fulfillment and satisfaction visiting them. I enjoy food like no other. I smell the ingredients, and admire the way they look when put together on a plate. I try to remember to feel grateful and take my time, rolling it around my tongue and savoring the flavor for a long time before letting it slide down my throat.
Wait…what were we talking about?
I just didn’t have the time or patience to bring it from the ground to the table myself.
I did consider myself an expert heater-upper. Steamed bags of rice and vegetables, gluten-free bread rolls, prepared pasta dishes from the deli or my favorite restaurant, wraps and sandwiches, salad-packs, cheese and grapes, a bottle of wine – everyone’s happy.
But something was missing.
It didn’t escape my attention that a homemade meal, made with fewer ingredients, is healthier than the store-bought variety. Even organic choices can feature concoctions found in a science experiment.
There were other reasons to try real cooking.
My adorable pre-teen children started to sigh and say, “Whatever.”
Researching this transition to impossible teen-ager, I learned that run-aways, drug addicts, and young Republicans come from families where home-cooked meals are about as rare as hugs and PBS. A relationship between emotional nourishment, gastrointestinal satisfaction, and street avoidance made sense and, as my kids got older, I hoped that a home smelling like gourmet pizza would be preferable to one with a take-out vibe.
I wanted the type of house where kids enjoy hanging out, because no one is doing drugs or making porn Vines here.
At least not yet.
That meant I was going to have to do something about my attitude and my cooking.
Let’s start in the kitchen, shall we?
When parents put love, thought and effort into a meal, kids appreciate it. With less reliance on restaurants and fast food, the whole family is thinner, more satisfied, and more successful at work and play.
Food is medicine we put into our bodies every day. Throwing in spices and herbs that cure a variety of ills makes us healthier and happier people.
I found old cooking books that well-intentioned friends and relatives had given me over the years. Trying not to sabotage myself, I ignored memories of my brother telling friends to lower expectations and eat something before visiting.
If Snooki can write a book, I could learn how to make raviolis.
Looking inside my oven, I took a deep breath. I removed the vodka bottles, added a few cups of Stoli to a marinara recipe that looked delicious, and became a cooking mom. So far, Marc fancies my chicken Marsala, vegetarian chili, and enchiladas. The kids like everything, especially my lasagna, risotto, homemade veggie burgers, and even Lima Bean Parmesan.
My self-esteem still isn’t wrapped up in my cooking, but I’m having fun in the kitchen – and it doesn’t involve reenacting a scene from 9 ½ Weeks. Imagine that.
But don’t tell my mom. Wouldn’t want to get her hopes up about Barry Manilow. Or Catechism.