I came to cooking late. As my grown kids will tell you, their memories of home-cooked meals are tied to Perdue and Kraft more than Bon Appetít or Gourmet. I’m a classic cliché of the Food TV generation. As soon as cooking shows began to show up on television, I became fascinated with food and cooking as both entertainment, hobby, and creative challenge. I never actually wanted to be a great chef, I just wanted to achieve small applause-worthy successes. What better validation of self-worth than a recipe followed and executed precisely, and an end result that looked exactly like the picture or screen shot?
I started small, meatballs mixed by hand and chicken with real lemons instead of juice from a bottle, then progressed to more complicated pursuits; flaky pastry dough folded and chilled, folded and chilled again, and desserts requiring a candy thermometer. And finally, to shopping forays at specialty shops. Would I run to a town 30 minutes away to get authentic corn tortillas for the soup? Certainly. Spend a small fortune on Saffron? Without question. Salt flakes? Never heard of them but of course I tracked them down!
At about the same time I was getting my clinical license and working in a variety of settings. Although it wasn’t till years later that I combined cooking with therapy, I was always conscious of the benefits of self-nurturing through cooking and especially of mastery. Small accomplishments. Small miracles, even (you try perfecting cream puffs in the shape of swans), all led to feelings of accomplishment and a boost to self-esteem.
I’m fairly certain that many of the lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen guide me through the other chambers of life. Patience, persistence, mindfulness to details and beauty, and a sense of humor when things don’t go as planned. Today, I combine my three loves; writing, cooking, and therapy into one job; not a bad gig. (If you’d like to learn about my fiction and essays, click here.) When not focused on any of those you can find me with family, or watching football, reading or playing golf, and dreaming about how to once again raise labs only now in a two-bedroom apartment. But mostly, you will find me in the kitchen, creating mental health moments for myself, the people I love, and now, you.