It is hard to be a person. It is hard to know what you want and how much time you have. To make enough money, you must work. You need to be able to manage your finances and work with your family. You must also have fun and rest. Otherwise, you will be too tired to do the responsible things. Engaging as a person requires constant work and constant learning. It can be exhausting. It is exhausting.
During my nine months of pregnancy, I experienced severe morning sickness. It’s my passion to cook and prepare food. It’s how and why I relax. It’s also how I feel connected with myself. I use it when I need to feel competent, organized and skilled at doing something. Cooking has become a part of my identity as a career. It was shocking to discover that my happy place would soon become my terrifying and disgusting place. It took days to go from nausea to vomiting and then to normal. Although the food was extremely repulsive, my body was still building a person from scratch and required sustenance. It was also rejecting many forms of food. It was extremely difficult, painful, and disheartening to feed myself each day.
My stomach was my volcano. It needed to be managed carefully, or it would explode. It was impossible to drink water if I had an empty stomach. Then I was able to drink water without any problems. I had to keep up with this careful balance of water and carbohydrates throughout the day. Food was no longer a pleasure, culture, or human connection. It was volcano management.
It was a learning experience that showed me the true joy of food for those who don’t find it enjoyable. I’ve always wanted to be able to welcome noncooks and food agnostics into the kitchen and give them a sense of belonging. For the first time in my entire life, I found myself in the body of a noncook. And this allowed me to experience the experience viscerally and not intellectually. I began to wonder if all I believed was false.
I felt ashamed and lonely as if I was a fraud. I felt like I had lost myself. My body was betraying me, and I didn’t know it. I felt worthless because the only thing I believed I could do was what I did best. I can only recall the moments that followed. It made me see something that I had missed in my approach to cooking. Sometimes cooking can be exhausting. It was overwhelming. It was too much pressure. If every meal was a chance to enjoy pleasure, I was failing quite a lot of the time.
After having my daughter, Io, I learned that not all meals are precious. Hooray! I did get my desire and taste for food back. However, I didn’t have the time or energy to prepare it as I used to. I was frustrated and harried when I tried to cook. I began cooking shortly after I went to bed. It was not difficult or time-consuming. I preferred to cook at home rather than ordering takeout every night (though there were many takeouts). My time was precious, and I had to be careful with it. It almost felt like I was getting time rations. I was also learning how to use them best. Sometimes, it felt like punishment to spend a time ration making dinner because I was so tired. I would sometimes beat myself up if it weren’t the most delicious meal, and then I would get even madder when I realized the dishes had to be prepared.
I eventually learned to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and make things. Even if I have to make Franken bowls of leftovers, the fact is that I don’t regret ordering pizza when making something. I am proud of what I do with the food I have, my determination, and that I can take care of myself. It is often the 90 per cent that is the main goal of a meal, and the remaining 10 per cent are very important but not worth worrying about.
This attitude was crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, which left us trapped in our homes. We heard sirens and made sourdough, if lucky. If not, we would lose jobs, housing, and people. It was cooking that made it popular. It was loved and hated by everyone. People could engage with it in ways they had never experienced before. It was amazing and heartwarming. Cooking is an essential skill. It amplifies the emotions we bring to it. People used cooking to cope with the chaos and calm down during the pandemic. To distract themselves. To find enjoyment. They were eating and making food as a way to express their anxieties and fears. Many lessons can be learned from such difficult times, and I’m far too busy to process them all right now. This is what I can tell you: Cooking, like all acts of care, sometimes flows naturally and feels right. Other times, just necessity, habit, discipline, or pure necessity gets you to the cutting boards. It isn’t easy to find the time or energy to cook, regardless of whether you are a parent, a parent, or any other situation. Sometimes, even the most pleasurable of things can feel like work. Sometimes, I wish I could stop caring and pause the pace of life. We can’t. It’s fine to feel that way.