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Sunday, January 11, 2009

1/10/09 Top (Healthy) Chefs

Tonight I spent cooking. Yes, I said cooking. Stop laughing! I know you are tuned in by now to my dislike of cooking. I outed myself with my funny stories. And yes, like I’ve said, I CAN cook, I made a whole turkey dinner for Christmas with many side dishes and it was perfect. I just choose to not cook unless I have to. I think the only reason I love to bake is because the baked goods last longer than a day. I hate when you spend hours cooking a meal and then it’s gone…over and done with in mere minutes…sometimes to an appreciative audience, sometimes not. Maybe it’s the artist in me…when I create something, besides the enjoyment of the process, I’ll have to admit it’s the appreciation of all that hard work that makes it worthwhile, and in art that appreciation can last forever. Call me selfish, but I love a little appreciation. I want oooh’s and aaaah’s. There’s too little of that with cooking…lot’s of time, not much enjoyment of the process, little appreciation, non-lasting…that just doesn’t add up for me.

So tonight when my daughter suddenly decided we had to cook something special for her last home cooked dinner before returning to college, I inwardly groaned. When she started looking up recipes online, the groans became a moan in my head…there was no way she’d pick something with ingredients I already have. That meant a trip to the grocery store, in the midst of a snow/sleet storm. We braved the slush and went out, returning to my ‘Boys Club + the boyfriend’ all enjoying football on the couch.

DD had picked the recipes for her favorite meal at Olive Garden; Parmesan encrusted tilapia, steamed squash, and linguine with garlic butter. Yes, it could have been harder, ie. Lasagna, but since DH eats no seafood (his parents never had it at home, so he never developed a taste for it), we also had to make parmesan encrusted chicken breasts. Now get this, I actually had fun with the process! Yep, standing there being my daughter’s sous chef was actually fun. I poured the wine, tied the aprons, drank the wine, got the water boiling, drank the wine, chopped the squash, drank the wine, prepped the meats, drank the wine, poured more wine, and watched as she coated the meats. We had a good time, and a lovely meal.

I love that my kids like to cook. Like, I’ve said before, my Mom hated us being in the kitchen. Who can blame her with five kids running around. As great a cook as Mom is, her 4 daughters and 1 son suck at it. Three of us hate cooking, my brother loves only grilling, and one sister is an OK cook, but only because she does cook all the time. Anyway, I’m not sure if my kids like to cook because I hate it so much they had to learn to fend some for themselves, or because I’m just a great mom and I let them dabble in the kitchen from a young age. I’m choosing to believe the latter. From the time they were little I always let them help with cooking, especially baking. I’ve ‘let them’ make their own lunches for school as they got old enough. Or maybe it was actually when they got embarressed by my lunches with those notes I always wrote on their napkins, and the puzzle cut PB&J sandwiches (like I’ve been saying, I have to be creative, no ‘cut in fourths’ sandwiches for MY kids).

I did teach them, as has DH, all the basics of cooking. But I’m the one who passed on my love of fine dining and giving everything a try, at least once. I’m a foodie, or more accurately an eatie, because I love good food, but not the cooking part. Besides no seafood DH won’t eat anything on the bone (also passed down from his parents, I don’t get that one as they are a Dr. and a nurse so it can’t be gross to them, but maybe that makes it grosser to them…who knows?) and he also has some issues with textures of some foods. We also had to buy leather couches with no cording/piping because of that texture on his legs (try finding them, I dare you…about the 10th store I started calling him ‘the princess and the pea’), so I think he has lots of ‘texture issues’…it’s just weird.

It’s fun as they get older, and my two oldest are becoming adults, to watch them do the things they enjoy. My kids love all kinds of food; they can all crack a crableg like nobody’s business. DS1 ordered the seafood platter in Normandy and I watched with interest and pride as he attacked about a dozen kinds of ‘critters’ including the usual crawfish, muscles, etc. and even a sea urchin. DS1 has also taken on my love of baking. I’ll randomly find him in the kitchen baking a cake or cookies to take to school to give out to all his friends (makes him a very popular friend). He would secretly love to go to culinary or pastry school, but after selecting engineering I consoled him with the fact that he can always take cooking classes for fun. In Paris I had set up his taking a pastry class at the Ritz Escoffier (better thought of than le Cordon Bleu to Parisians) for his 18th birthday…he had a personal translator and he loved every minute. DD loves to cook and proudly says she’s the best and healthiest food cook of any of the college girl she knows. DS2 is just starting out, but he’s gotten very good at eggs…he loves my mom’s sunny side up eggs and has gradually perfected her technique of the perfect temperature and slowly basting the yolk. He’s also working on my ‘Willie May’ scrambled eggs…she was the cook at my sorority house in college and I watched her closely every morning as I sat in the kitchen while she cooked her wonderful eggs; butter first, pour the hot butter into the eggs and mix in, more butter in the pan, then finally pouring the mixture into the frying pan to cook them up…what’s not to love with all that butter. I’ve promised next weekend to make my Mom’s famous egg casserole with him (sausage, bread crumbs, you get the picture).

I hope their love of food doesn’t ever become a weight issue for them as it has for me (they’re all super thin). Hopefully, my getting thinner will be a good example of having a normal relationship with food, even good food. I think that’s why at this point, I don’t intend to be one of those who eats the rest of my life like I’m on a horrid diet. That doesn’t mean I won’t change many of the choices on what we’re cooking (take out the pasta, maybe learn to cook dessert with sugar substitues), but I don’t intend to be one of those banders who’s eating mostly protein drinks three years later. I know that works for some, but I know that won’t work for me, it hasn’t in the past and I can’t live that way forever…and what kind of example is that for my kids…personally, I think that could cause them to have more food issues then seeing me fat. I’d rather eat way less of something good, then more of something awful. I want that normal relationship (albeit way smaller portions) with good, healthy food.

I know with this banding process, it will be up to me to take the lead on healthier choices. I’ve already been collecting ‘bander’ recipes here and there. Like I said, it will be fun to watch what kind of cooks they become when they’re adults. Maybe I’ll be going to their homes for dinner…my Top (Healthy) Chefs.

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