Hi, guys! It's me. It's been a really long time. I'm sorry for that, I've been knocking out life goals and junk. You know, adulting and all that jazz. I have missed though and wanted to take a moment to re-engage here by discussing with you how my son has made me a better cook.
My sweet, willful, opinionated little toddler, J, has sharpened my values in many areas of my life (Thus the increase in adulting and junk) but I have seen it the most in the areas of food and cooking. My attitudes toward food, the dinner table, and habits have been defined and then redefined the older and more participatory my son gets. He has ideas about what should be in the grocery cart; how much salt something needs; what types of cheese he'll eat in block form (bring on the Parmesan, Mama); and in which ways he will eat potatoes and eggs. Learning these rapidly changing tastes in food and habits has been the greatest asset to my cooking. Here are the top four ways:
1. Mysterious Food Items: I take J grocery shopping and to the farmer's markets all the time. It's come to be a very fun outing for me and him. For one, the more exposure he has to food the more likely he is to eat it. Secondly, it's important that he knows and understands what food is and where it comes from, it's important for him to understand that there human beings toiling away every day to make sure we have food on our table that he (WE) all take for granted. Seeing and engaging those farmers teaches him appreciation and respect for others because they provide something vital.
However, the downside of these outings is that inevitably I get to checking out and somehow a mysterious ingredient has miraculously appeared in my cart or in the farmstand's hands and into my bag. I oftentimes don't realize that these ingredients have made it into the bag (mostly because I'm making sure J doesn't set the place on fire) until we've gotten home and I just stare at it while questioning my sanity. But in the end, I think it's great that these items make it home with us because now I have to find a way to use these ingredients and it's been a lot of fun reading about dragon fruits (a sorbet turned popsicle), kohlrabi (A soup), and buddhas hand (A simple syrup). My product knowledge has increased and I have found so many new and fun ways to use this produce. Moreover, J actually eats what he picked out!!!! Encouraging that kind of curiosity is so crucial and I wouldn't want to hamper that.
2. I've Gotten Smarter and More Healthful About Food: I've gotten pretty lucky because J is a pretty good eater. I feel like it's because I've blended not pressuring him to eat with the old school thinking that he'll eat when he's hungry; so I've eliminated snacking after like 3:30. Lately, he has been rather focused on pizza but that's ok because I'm armed with an arsenal of how to get veggies into him. The pizza crust has an amount of alternative grain like whole wheat or buckwheat subbed in. I always incorporate a veggie either directly on the pizza (I used asparagus recently, he loved it) or in a pesto (Which he ended up eating the whole bunch I made). In a tomato sauce, I either include carrots or spinach. If I make ravioli, I jam pack the filling with veggies. I've gotten a lot smarter and more creative because of this and as a result, J is a really adventurous eater!
Furthermore, we eat together and usually the same thing. Which means I'm eating the same nutrients and healthy substitutions. This provides further encouragement and is better for me too. Now I totally understand that I have the time to do these kinds of meals and it's totally true. There have been many nights when J isn't cooperating where he's tugging at my pants and squeezing himself between me and the hot stove; I often think to myself lets just go to White Castle. However, I know how important this moment is for him to understand patience (I mean who is actually graciously patient waiting for food?); dinner time rituals; eating around a table with food lovingly prepared. This is the time where we connect and relax after a long day.
3. My Relationship With Food Has Changed: Let me just start out here by saying, I love chips and sweet treats. I mean seriously, I border on being powerless against them. Sometimes I gorge on these guilty pleasures more often than others; typically around finals time or stressful days. However, more and more it's starting to sink in that I'm Js number one example. Coupled with a dodgy family health history, I need to start paying closer attention to my eating habits and snacks. Reserving my food weaknesses for special occasions (And finals week, because I need SOMETHING!)
I also want to make sure he sees a woman with a healthy relationship with food. I don't want him to see a woman who gets anxiety when she jumps off the wagon for potato chips and brownies. I want him to see a woman who recognizes that she has done so and adjusts accordingly, all while having a good time. I feel like we women have enough body image issues being pushed on us, and I don't want J to get sucked into the thinking that women should have anxiety about food. When in reality, women who enjoy food are the most fun.
4. It's Changed the Way I View a Lovingly Prepared Meal: Cooking a lovingly prepared meal has really changed for me. It used to be sort of an arrogant act in the past.; A kind of "Look what I can do, aren't you impressed?" a peacock show for love interests. Or it was meant to soothe a broken heart or frustrating day for friends, assuming that my meal could wash away and replace the hurt with love and calories. Either way, both were acts stemming from ego and arrogance, not from a place of nourishment and fulfillment. But now when I cook a meal I think about the ways it will nourish him and leave him fortified. It has a whole new meaning, cooking meals. I want my meals to do more than pique a love interest or to temporarily soothe heartache. I want it to be his sense of home and safety*. It's true what everyone says when you grow a little being. You truly don't know what love is until you created it. Every time J gets hurt, or gets really upset when I leave, or gives me kisses or hugs I feel each so deeply it's all-consuming; so much so it can be scary and leave me breathless.
*I also want him to really like it. I get really let down when he snubs his nose at meals that I've really worked hard to prepare. There is no worse snub.
My Sweet Baby J has been the catalyst for so many changes in my life, not a single one bad. But the single greatest change he's made is the one that affects my relationship with food. He's made it more fun, interesting, and a more fulfilling experience.