Welcome to My Kitchen
Anyone who knows me well can tell how comfortable I feel in a kitchen. I like to cook and have been doing it since an early age. I got my first cookbook when I was 13. Throughout my teens, I ventured to make cakes, desserts, and easy dishes. At the age of 18, when I was living with my two sisters, I took over cooking. In the beginning, the menu and knowledge were restricted, of course, but I started experimenting and learning little by little. Today I am certain that home cooking is much more than a household chore.
In my first few months working in the United States, I noticed that there was a different relationship between people and food here. During the almost 20 years that I worked in Brazilian factories, meals were provided by the company as a benefit. Larger companies in Brazil typically have a cafeteria and serve subsidized meals to employees. This was the norm for me since my first internships and in the three plants I worked for while in my home country.
In the States, it’s quite different. No company provides or subsidizes meals. You are on your own. like in the Flintstones cartoon, at lunchtime each one grabs their lunchbox and eats what’s inside. The other option is to buy at vending machines or fast-food restaurants. That’s why sandwiches and fast-food chains are so popular around here.
A New Perspective
In the first few months working in the US, I noticed people thanking the manager for the food on special occasions when the meal was provided, which usually happens around the holidays. Never in 20 years have I seen this happen in Brazil. That’s when my perspective started to change. I had taken for granted the benefit of provided food for many years.
With higher labor costs, in the US one cannot have the luxury of having helpers at home every day. If you want to eat you have to make your food or make enough money to afford buying it every day. That’s why people appreciate receiving a meal, even if it is as simple as pizza. It’s not just the food you’re getting, but all the time involved in the process – from grocery to table. Those who have never had the need to make their own food on a daily basis take it for granted.
An Act of Love
As I come to understand later in life, cooking is more than a chore, it is an act of love. It was the greatest form of love I received from my grandmother and that I receive from my mother. It’s the language of affection that I learned early on and that I intuitively began to use. Today I know that love is the best spice there is and the secret ingredient of Grandma’s treats. In his book Superlife, Darin Olien says that we should only eat food prepared by ourselves or by someone who loves us. I totally agree! – nurturing others is the greatest expression of love! I was able to comprehend the feeling when I started breastfeeding my son. Of all the memories I have of my babies breastfeeding was the most memorable one.
My Expression of Love
Feeding my family and loved ones is an absolute pleasure for me. I love to host and watch the dynamics of a table full of people. Those gathering moments are treasured but, I also love to feed myself. When I’m alone I make sure of preparing something beautiful and tasty for my enjoyment. Taking care of myself and expressing love and affection for myself is equally important. I believe my body is a magical and divine temple that allows me to live on this Earth. Therefore, nurturing it is the ultimate expression of self-love. When my body is well-nourished, I feel good.
I think it’s important to know what I am eating. Home cooking is the way I’m certain of not eating poor-quality ingredients. Unfortunately, we can’t expect fast food restaurants to use extra virgin olive oil and still be able to make money. At home, I use the best quality ingredients I can afford. I usually avoid fried foods, refined oils, processed meats, white flour, sugar, synthetic salt, and industrialized snacks. Packaged food is full of preservatives, modifiers, thickeners, sweeteners, and many other ingredients that make them have a long shelf life. Well, the problem is that all those chemicals are really toxic.
Not to mention the energy. When I cook for my loved ones, the energy I put into the food is love and care. I cook with pleasure, calmly, listening to music. Imagine the energy a fast-food restaurant employee puts into the food he makes — making ten dollars an hour, standing on his feet all day long, and always in a hurry. Besides, the restaurant has to make profit, of course! They use whatever is cheaper to make the food tasty. Needless to say, whatever is cheaper if not healthy at all.
Cooking is therapeutic for me – it is a way to relax and wind up the day. It is a celebration, the culmination of which is the family gathering at the table talking and savoring. I do value and appreciate this ritual even when it’s rushed and tiring. The affective memories we have and the relationship we develop with food were created at times like these in our childhood. If the meals were in a loving, caring, and affectionate environment, the flavors will stay in our memories forever. I feel fortunate to have my own fond memories about food and I want my children to have the opportunity to make theirs.
I’m glad to see an increasing number of people interested in cooking lately. Many chefs have become celebrities, there are TV shows dedicated to the subject and numerous Instagram profiles sharing recipes. It seems like even young people are more and more interested in cooking. As I love to try new recipes and ingredients, I do follow some people in the cooking business. My favorite is The Happy Pear – Irish twin brothers that own a Cafe, Shop, Bakery, and Farm business focused on plant-based products and a farm-to-table approach. They are very charismatic and make cooking easy and fun.
I hope you give cooking a try and enjoy it as much as I do. Even if you don’t enjoy it home cooking will hopefully give you a different perspective about food and love.
Remember: Good is what makes you feel well!
To check one of my recipes read: A healthy Dessert Recipe.
PS.: Picture credits to my beloved son Gabe Paulino.