Lots of writing about food lately in the little circles I wander. In fact most places I visit are full of amazing cooks (yes you) and often share recipes and their delectable creations. I do love that. In fact if you posted a recipe, I probably bookmarked it. If you suggested a cookbook, I probably have it or it's on my wishlist. My desire to really learn how to cook has always been here with me, just waiting and hovering for the right time. I know what I have missed, but I feel like the child staring distantly with wanting eyes at the other children playing together, wishing to join in, but afraid to.
Cooking is such a beautiful skill. Every meal is an opportunity to give a gift of love to our families. You can tell a meal that has the cook's heart and soul infused into it, with dazzling combinations, delicious colors, and flavors that just make you smile and want to stay in that moment forever. My mother-in-law Jill cooks like this. Her menus, especially her holiday menus, are not just any meal, they are celebrations themselves with love and care mingling in every bite.
With every recipe or cookbook I have or covet, I see this opportunity dangling in front of my eyes. I go through every book carefully, like a girl and a shopping magazine, placing sticky note bookmarks on the pages I want to remember to dive into. Every now and then I accept that challenge and create something lovely for my family. They praise me and I put a star on that recipe and write "LOVE", so that I remember to make it again. But those times are few and very far between. I feel shame about that quite often, like I am not loving or nurturing my family enough. It's something about myself I have always wanted to change. But in order to do that I have to go backwards again, which really sucks because I have no desire to do so. I could just accept that I don't want to cook and leave it at that. But I know it's not true. I do want to cook. I want to get lost in the flavors, fill my house with wafting joy, and give my family the pleasure of loving the food that they eat, and not just eating to fill their bellies. What restrains me is a little skeleton that was left behind from a difficult battle long ago. It has lurked with me ever since, embedded like shards of glass in the background, silent but ever present.
I have always known that this disconnect I had with food has remained with me all these years. This battle began at 16 and it wasn't until I was 28 that I faced my eating disorder head on. It took 3-4 years to fully recover. It began as anorexia and evolved into bulimia. It was a nasty little secret, a secret I kept hidden for many many years. But a secret like this will have it's casualties--relationships suffered, work suffered, my health and mental clarity suffered. I began to hate myself and I began to hate food. If you have never had an addiction, this concept of being completely at the mercy of something you cannot control maybe a difficult thing to understand. I was at the mercy of my food addiction. You know you are hurting yourself, you know you may kill yourself, but you can't stop. You can't just stop cold, and 100% of the time, it's not about the substance itself. It's about a seed that was planted within a long time ago, a very powerful and destructive thought that you are not good enough. This thought manifests itself in many ways if not countered with it's opposite. For perfectionists like me, eating disorders are very very common. The need to control outcomes was so strong, as was the need to prove to myself that I was better than I believed myself to be.
Fast forward to these days and I can say that I am a person that eats fairly normally. I can appreciate lovely meals and enjoy eating them, but I take care to never eat too much or love something too much. It's been 12 years since my recovery started, and these feelings of wanting to cook and to love cooking have been getting stronger in the last couple years. I want to do this for my family, as well as for myself. They deserve to have the pleasures of food and not be penalized from my own personal history. Yet the fear lingers beneath the surface of my skin and I'm afraid to give myself to the desire to get lost in the joy of cooking and food. The last time I was lost in food, I was surrounding by self-loathing and anger. To completely convert food into love feels hard, very hard, and something my natural tendencies tell me to avoid.
Julie and Julia... on page 1. Not with the Mastering Art of French Cooking-- that would be too big of a step and a sure promise for self-defeat. I am thinking of using the cookbook I shared with you yesterday from Real Simple. 75 recipes, starting with soup and working my way through to the desserts. Will you keep your fingers crossed for me?
It feels good to let this skeleton out in all its transparent glory. As always, thanks for reading, if you still are, and just being there :). I will post my endeavors, as accountability, and there will be joy :), I promise.
PS. We have a family friend, a childhood friend of my husband's, who also battled an eating disorder and won. Her name is Johanna and she is an extraordinary woman who has turned her experiences into a cause to help others. She has built a nonprofit organization called the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness and also has written a book called Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder. Thanks Johanna for shining a beacon for all those that are lost in their disorders...