What’s a culinary impairment? You might have one if:
- Your best home-cooked meals come from a box.
- You have set things on fire in your kitchen more than once.
- You tend to leave key ingredients like baking powder out of baked goods (blueberry muffin blobs are NOT good).
- You mistakenly add ingredients when you’re not supposed to. For example, when a casserole recipe calls for a can of condensed soup, you follow the directions on the can and pour milk into the soup before pouring the soup into the casserole.
- You regularly have to ask grocery clerks where the items on your recipe ingredients list are in the store. Not because you can’t find your way around, but because you have no idea what they are or what they look like (things like “scallions” and “jicamas”).
- You accidentally leave the wax paper on slices of cheese and bake them into your chicken Parmesan.
- Your cookie pans have permanent black burn marks on them.
I have a severe culinary impairment. I composed the above list from personal experience. But take heart, dear friends! If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you.
In the five years that I’ve been married, I’ve managed to scrap together a few meals that are not only edible but enjoyable. It has taken a lot of trial and error, patience, humility and the ability to laugh at myself.
|Hopefully he will have more natural|
talent than his mother.
Lately, however, I’ve been inspired to take my efforts a step further. I have a somewhat undefined goal to make most of the food we eat from scratch. Why? Not because I want to be a great cook for its own sake (and obviously I’m never going to win any awards for my culinary skills). If anything is going to truly motivate me, it has to have a spiritual component. I’ve been doing some research that has completely reshaped the way I think about food. I’ll try to condense what I’ve discovered into a few points. Even if you’re skeptical about the whole Christian thing, read on because you might find some of this insightful anyway:
- Participating in the creative process. We were made in the image of a creative Creator (Genesis 1:27). Yet a lot of our innate creativity is stifled in a society built around consumption and convenience. Cooking is definitely not my strongest creative gift, but nonetheless there is something extremely satisfying about putting together a good meal. As my kids continue to grow I want my household to celebrate creativity–and the more I cook, the more I can invite my kids to participate in the process.
- Caring for what was entrusted to us. God’s first job for humankind was to work the earth and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). When you indulge in the convenience of fast food, do you have any idea where it came from? Or even what’s in it? The more I can use whole ingredients and track where they come from, the more I can ensure that I am eating food that is honoring God’s creation. I have a deepening belief in doing the research necessary to support food production practices that are the most socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and humane towards animals.
- Enjoying the family meal. After God created the world, he rested (Genesis 2:2-3). But he didn’t just take a nap. No, he delighted in what he made and invited the rest of creation to savor it with him. He made that day of rest holy, different. Later he commanded the Israelites to celebrate the Sabbath in the same way–coming together to celebrate in the work they and God had done. In a similar spirit, Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a great banquet, a feast of ages (Luke 14:15-24). This man also knew how to party while he was on earth–his first miracle was to turn water into wine and keep the party going! (John 2:1-11). Because of these examples and many more, family meals should have the same spirit. We can come together, thank God for what he made, and enjoy what we made!
- Bringing others in. So many Bible passages talk about loving the people around us that I can’t even pick one. What better way to “love your neighbor” than invite him in for a home-cooked dinner from scratch!
I could go on and on…making your own food is also healthier and can save a ton of money if you plan it right. And it tastes amazing!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if you have the time, energy or even the ability to pull off something like this. I’ve been purposefully going at this for a couple of weeks, and here are a few helpful hints:
- Do a little bit at a time. Try one or two new recipes a week. Otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed and may want to quit.
- Plan, plan, plan. You can make a lot of things very easily in half an hour or less. But to do this you have to be strategic about your shopping lists and menus. You will not pull the fresh ingredients you need out of your cupboard at the last second!
- Stick to the exact instructions in new recipes. Otherwise, if you’re like me, improvisation will probably not taste good.
- Utilize your freezer and your crockpot to save that precious thing you never have enough of: time.
I’ve really enjoyed this experiment so far, and so has my family. We’ve had some tasty successes (roasted broccoli, marinara from scratch) and some disappointments (do not try to roll and cut your own pasta without a pasta cutter). I had an exciting moment at the grocery store the other day–almost everything in my cart was either fresh or had minimal preservatives and processing (like organic canned tomatoes).
Hopefully you’re at least a little inspired that someone with a major culinary impairment is doing this—publicly, on the Internet. If you’re intrigued, do some research, find your own motivation and have some fun! You’ll certainly be hearing more about how it’s going for me.