Because I do a lot of pontificating about the necessity of strengthening the bond between people and their food I thought that I would put my money where my mouth is and actually help someone reconnect with their food. Enter Andrew. Andrew is one of the growing multitudes of people who do not cook at all. As in the fridge might have a ketchup packet from some fast food joint and maybe a beer. He eats out every meal, says he doesn’t have a great sense of smell, thus taste and has a slight case of self-proclaimed laziness. But Andrew began to notice that eating was physically and emotionally making him feel ill and off balance and wondered to me one night if it was possible for food to make you depressed. He got a very long-winded yes. He cut out all fast food chains, tried to make healthier choices and it still wasn’t enough. In a personal search for more balance in his life he asked me if I would teach him how to cook.
I asked Andrew to think of 2 or 3 things that he would like to learn how to cook, but even that was a lot to conceive of for him because the idea of choice rather than choosing from a limited menu in front of him was almost alien. After we purchased Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, we went to Whole Foods and in my mind I had the idea for the Oven Fried Sesame Chicken with Soy Dipping Sauce. This dish takes less then 40 minutes to make, is in the cookbook we just bought and everyone likes fried chicken. Also, as I explained to him he could use the left overs in a sandwich, on a salad or reheat for dinner number two.
When we hit the produce section I could tell that Andrew was a little overwhelmed and I told him just to focus on me. When I asked him what kind of lettuce he liked he answered, “I don’t really know the difference.” I did a quick run down on the different textures and qualities, not that we had a ton to choose from it being winter still, and ended up going with Boston Butter Red Leaf. When I asked him what vegetables he liked, Andrew surprisingly had a pretty long list. So, we grabbed some scallions, tomatoes, celery and a bottle of Cindy’s White Balsamic Dressing with Gorgonzola for salad fixings. We got back to my apartment and put the chicken in the oven and got to work on the salad.
“I can’t believe how fresh everything is!” Andrew said as we were cutting vegetables. This gave me pause because I had to wonder how many years it had been since he had eaten fresh organic vegetables straight from the market rather than genetically modified tasteless faux vegetables out of a plastic container, if ever.
When we sat down to eat I noticed that he housed all of his salad first and while eating had a look of slight surprise on his face. After we finished and were heading to the bar for a pint, because one good turn deserves another after all, he said, “I think the reason I liked that salad so much was that it only had vegetables in it that I like.” Indeed, it is true that one of the greatest advantages of cooking for yourself is that you get to eat only the things that you love to eat, and when you love what you eat, as the motto for this blog says, your food loves you back.
- March is National Nutrition Month (shareitforward.ca)
- McOatmeal (skeltzer.wordpress.com)
- Britain’s fried-chicken boom (guardian.co.uk)
- Tribute to Mark Bittman (lapetitepancake.wordpress.com)