Monday, March 26, 2012

My language with food.

I think about food all the time, but not just about consuming it. I think about cooking it almost constantly these days, so I'm wondering if my obsession is more than just putting it in my body; it seems to be more of a language for me.

Since I can remember, I have enjoyed cooking for people. I would get up early on the weekends and make everyone breakfast in bed. That usually meant hard scrambled eggs (I mean really hard), some form of juice or milk, and probably toast or cereal. I didn't know how to make much in the way of breakfast, but I would often even go to the lengths of printing out a menu and asking everyone to order something. Sometimes, I would create special items that I knew we didn't have or I didn't know how to make, so I would say, as I learned from restaurants, "Oh, I'm sorry. We are all out of that! Could I make you some scrambled eggs? They're my specialty!" (Yeah, I was pretty cute back in the day.) After breakfast stuff, Mom taught me how to make grilled cheese, then spaghetti, then all kinds of stuff, so by the time I was in college, I had a bunch of simple recipes I could share with my friends that were both delicious and easy. I was also a very picky eater growing up, so I knew if I could eat it, most of the people I knew could eat it. That idea was very appealing to me.

During my first year of college, I decided to go on the South Beach Diet to lose weight and control my insulin resistance, and I fell in love with most of the recipes from the first book I got. I loved cooking things from the book, and I would often invite people over for a meal to introduce them to my new eating lifestyle. One thing that I enjoyed about it the most was making the healthy substitutions and realizing that the mock up tasted just as good as the real thing, sometimes even better! To this day, minus the juice fasting, I still follow the recipes from the South Beach Diet when I cook. I have all of the cookbooks I could find, including one just for holidays. The recipes are exactly what I love the most: delicious and easy. I'm sure I'll talk more about SBD recipes as time goes on. (If you're shopping for new, healthy recipes, you must get The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook. It is an absolute must-have.)

When I lived in the dorms with kitchens, my roommates and I would have specific nights where we would cook for each other. I went all out and I loved it! I would also include some strange fruit I'd never eaten before as dessert just to be adventurous. After every meal, I had everyone rate the meal. I got some pretty high scores most of the time. It started to be a pretty big thing for me, so I'd invite other people to join us. There were a few times where we didn't have enough chairs for everyone. (Of course, most of the extra dinner guests were boys. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right?)

Somewhere in there, I started to offer to cook for my family all the time. If ever I'm home, I'm trying to cook something. In fact, I cooked for my brother and his wife a few weeks ago in Atlanta, and then again for my parents and my other brother and his wife a few nights after that - all while I was on a juice fast. I've cooked for my house guests who were traveling during this time. I've even thought about dropping off baked goods for some of my neighbors these days "just because." (I will probably still do that, by the way. I know you're probably reading this, Anna.)

Anytime I want to figure something out, I always try to have an audience. After my stay in Thailand, I tried my hand at cooking Thai food for family and friends. After Costa Rica, I tried the same thing. Any trip I took, I was whipping up something I had for someone else so they could be apart of that experience with me in some way. I'm constantly trying to figure out what is in something I'm eating so I could recreate it at home or for someone else. (Up next: East Side King's-style beet fries with Gina!) Some people know that I semi-secretly *love* picnics. [Check the 2 wicker baskets, picnic-specific blanket, and new-to-me vintage picnic plate and utensil carrying set. You can call me a hardcore picnicker.] They also know that I *adore* pot lucks. (I'm great at theme parties, too. What can I say?) This has been a normal thing for me for most of my life - cooking for people, enjoying our food together - because I don't just eat to live, but sometimes, I do live to eat because for me food is love.

Most people know this as a truth. When your mom, g-ma, or aunt – usually just someone older than you who knows how to freakin' cook - makes something AMAZING, you just want to hug them or cuddle with them afterward because a) you are so damn full of delicious goodness and b) they just slaved over an incredible meal for you just because they care. It's such a beautiful thing! And in my family, when we get together, we will sit at the table for hours, full plates to empty plates, and just talk and connect, usually over the food at first. Some of the best conversations I have ever had in my entire life have been at my kitchen table. Stories. Laughter. Tears. Joy. Love. What brought us there? Food. Delicious, amazing, wonderful, incredible food. I feel like saying Amen right now! (Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being so loving and providing as you were unknowingly shaping me into the human I am through these lasting experiences and outstanding meals.)

Fast forward to a few months ago, I felt myself getting a little stuck in the same routine with the same food staples there for a little while before this juice fast. It was no wonder that I would find myself in a restaurant more often than not, making choices that weren’t the best for me. Now that I'm juicing all of this fresh produce, I cannot wait to cook it and eat it! There are so many different flavors of lettuce out there that I am excited to build different meals specific to each one. I've juiced things I wouldn't have touched before, and now, I'm looking up recipes for when I can consume them whole. The same goes for roots and fruits and all kinds of other fresh, wonderful things.

This stuff - this beautiful, beautiful produce - is so much love for us. It is grown in our earth, put here by our Creator, for us to have and enjoy so our bodies will be strong, well, and vibrant. I'd ignored so much of it for fear, I guess. What else could it have been? Now that my eyes are opened to the rest of the produce section, not just a select area, I am planning feasts for my friends and family along with simply delicious, healthy meals all for myself.

It feels like I'm learning a new language, which is something I made as a goal for myself not too long ago, so it's interesting how that goal is shaping up into a different form. This new language with food is like a deeper understanding of love, and I am slowly but surely approaching the testing period - that is, life post-juice fast in 19 days - where I'll use this language of love for myself in the best way that I've learned how. Just thinking about eating is making me really happy, but not because I'm going to go out and eat fried pickles (which are delicious, by the way) every night. It's because I'm going to listen to what this new language is telling my heart and my body and make the best choices I possibly can, at home or wherever. This is such an empowering time for me right now that I have no fear inside me that I'm going to just go crazy and start consuming small children because I've been so deprived. That's just silly! If anything, I may fear restaurants that fry everything and use Paula Deen-esque globs of butter on otherwise ridiculously healthy things, but even then, I'll know that there has to be some option for me. If not, I'll create one for myself because I guarantee I have that power.

I love myself, I love food, and life after this fast is going to be so much fun. Of course, you'll read all about it!

If you are interested in learning more about what I'm doing and the film that inspired my roommate and I to take this journey, please come with us to Whole Foods Market on N Lamar this Friday around 5 pm on the plaza outside for a viewing of "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." Joe Cross, director and star of the film, will be there. He's coming all the way from Australia! Needless to say, I'm super excited. Well, I was already excited, but to meet the guy who inspired the journey you're currently on while you're on the journey is kind of a dream come true. Join us! You can find more information right here on the Facebook.

By the way, I love you all. Thank you for reading this. Seriously.



Kristin said...

Beautifully written Anslee! I wish I could be there with you Friday. Just know I'm cheering you on from Houston! I can't wait to see what the next 19 days bring for you and your journey after the fast is over. Keep it up gorgeous girl!

Just call me Cookie or Susie or Sueanne said...

Anslee, I love your blog! You know, you should come visit here in India! Seriously! We have LOTS of room and you could learn a lot of cooking here. I know a couple of places too that teach you to cook certain dishes and then you get to eat them, all while at your table. Let me know if you're interested. I heard you might be coming to India too. I think my hubby saw that you posted it or something, can't remember. It would be so much fun!