Finding Joy in Cooking
Once upon a time, I liked to cook. I spent my 20s single and eating gas station food, so as I neared 30 and started a family, I began cooking. I discovered that I liked it so did it fairly often, using the things I had learned by watching my grandmother cook as I was growing up.
Fast forward a few years when I had two small kids and a full-time job and my relationship with cooking started to change. Life got busier and so I would make the kids something to eat and then my husband and I would scrounge up whatever we could find a few times a week. A few times a week become every day but the weekends, which would be the time I would cook. When the kids got older and hungrier, I would keep foods around that they liked and were easy for them to fix, so when they got home from school they would eat. By the time I got home then, there was no need to cook, and it started to extend into the weekend so it got to where I was lucky if I cooked two meals a week - with everyone on different schedules we would all just eat whatever, whenever.
This is what I have maintained for the last several years, and seems more relevant now that it's just my daughter and me at home.
Having said all that, I need to tell you that back in my early 30s, I loved watching Nigella Lawson's cooking show "Nigella Bites". Deliciously British, she was outgoing, beautiful, posh, and an excellent cook who just seemed normal. I loved watching her cook easy but elegant meals for having friends round for dinner parties and ascribed to do something similar one day. Obviously, I never did.
Why tell you all this? Well, through my Roku box, I watch a lot of YouTube (my only subscription in life), and recently, I ran across "Nigella Bites" and began to binge-watch them. Not only was I awash in nostalgia, but I began to feel the urge to begin cooking again.
By god, if Nigella can put together an effortless dinner party on a Wednesday, surely I can put together a simple dinner for my daughter and myself after work each day. So, that's exactly what I've been doing.
But, it's been more than just cooking. I come home from work, slip into my house clothes, put on some jazz music, pour a glass of wine, and start cooking. It's become a fabulous way for me to relax, unwind, and enjoy my space & my time. Even more, I've become a better cook.
Let me take you through a week.
Monday: I had one frozen pie crust left from Thanksgiving as well as turkey, so I made a Turkey Pot Pie. Granted, it was easy to make because of the already made pie crust and already cooked turkey, but it still required me to make a gravy, assemble, and bake.
Tuesday: Even though I'm not vegan anymore, I still love vegan food. To this end, I keep plenty of tofu in the freezer so when I was thinking about dinner for this day, I settled on a stir fry. Since I have the aforementioned tofu as well as good quality, bottled lemon juice, I decided on Lemon Tofu. Instead of being in a hurry and frying all the (lightly dredged in cornstarch) tofu at once and ending up with soggy tofu, I took my time and fried it all in batches. I ended up with very crispy tofu. To coat the golden crispiness, I made a fantastic sauce using lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes thickened with a slurry. Man, was it ever delicious! Definitely, something to put in my regular rotation.
Wednesday: My daughter had been sick for a few days with a low-grade fever and body aches, so I opted for some soup. This was an easy meal day as I had a prepackaged bag of broccoli-cheddar soup that you simply whisk into 8 cups of boiling water. It was pretty yummy, easiness be damned, and I toasted up some bread to go with it.
Thursday: I was really in the mood for pizza, so that's what I made. I have a food processor with a dough blade, so making homemade dough is easy (the processor eliminates the need to knead the dough for an excruciating 10 minutes). In the past, I would be in a haste, so I'd make my dough, slather the raw dough in a ton of sauce, throw my toppings on, and bake. Needless to say, I'd always end up with soggy dough weighed down further by an overabundance of sauce and cheese (the toppings weren't to blame). This time, I did it the proper way. I baked the dough for a good seven minutes first, then put a light coating of sauce, toppings, and a light layer of cheese. Not only was it delicious but for the first time, I actually had a perfectly baked crust that held up firmly. Of course, it was delicious and probably one of the best pizzas I've made to date.
Friday: This was an easy day as I simply warmed up leftovers and the two of us picked a bit of the things we wanted to eat.
I have to say, I'm genuinely back to cooking (most) every night and loving it.
Thank you, Nigella, you goddess.