Being the Backstage Cook

IMG_5033.jpg

I think too many of us envision cooking as the cooking-show version: a row of delicate ramekins full of pre-measured, pre-seasoned, pre-cut foods ready to be poured artfully into a mixer or a pan. A quick statement of what you needed to do (chop, dice, mince, filet) is all you need.

These days, there are even faster cooking shows, where you don’t even see the cook but instead see a fast-forward version of the person cooking and adding everything, one thing per second. The final product shows up after less than 60 seconds, perfect and picturesque.

I think one of the things that keeps us from cooking more is that we only think of these as the way that cooking looks; real cooking is mostly chopping. I know that I am more likely to cave on the Whole30 month if I don’t pre-cut and pre-wash a lot of my veggies, but I don’t kid myself: I’ve signed up for a month of Sunday afternoons where I’ll be preparing food, making it so that my weekday schedule can fit healthy choices in. It’s a bit of an experiment too – Whole30 is so restrictive that eating in restaurants is difficult, so we’re aiming to not eat any restaurant food the whole month. Instead, some of the money that normally goes toward restaurant eating (because we love it) will be channelled into better, purer ingredients. Not because I’m always going to go organic or go grass-fed or go free-range – I’m just interested to see if I see a difference.

The other day, I prepped potatoes and sweet potatoes to have for meals later on that day and week. It was nice, because I didn’t really notice it. Like food channel cooks, I was able to pull out the things I needed, heat oil in a pan, and make my meal without taking the time to cut up veggies. I’m usually hungry by the time I walk in from work, so it’s a nice thing that I’m able to prep ahead and do a little cooking-show magic, but it’s not without the background cook, the person who makes all those lovely cuts – that person is me, just me on the weekend.

Back to Reality… and Committing to Whole30 in 2017!

Over the break, Husband and I talked about some big picture changes – things like giving up cheese, dairy in general, sugar, and grains for a month! The very idea of that change grew when I saw how our fridge is, and listened to myself acquiesce to a take-out pizza just so easily yesterday. Sure, we had an 8.5 hour drive, sure, it was cold and we were tired and we just wanted to watch a goofy movie and veg out, but it sure does remind me: Whole30 for a month would be such a huge commitment.

The idea of trying Whole30 strikes me the way that our garden struck me this spring: I don’t (and didn’t) know what I was getting into, I don’t (and didn’t) quite prepare perfectly, and I won’t (and didn’t) get everything out of it that I could. Still, I could never regret starting to garden, despite our crazy tangled tomatoes and the non-starter onions and those insanely bitter tiny bell peppers there at the end of the season. Sure, I can see how parts of Whole30 are going to give me literal and metaphorical headaches, and I’m going to hate some of the foods on the “compliant” list because I eat them so often, and I’m going to roll my eyes a little when I aim for the higher-quality, organic, or grass-fed version of something I normally get at the cheapest, bargain-basement rate. Husband and I are especially vexed about breakfast: our investment normally involves one push of the toaster button. We’re going to have to prep ahead or we’re going to fall into our old bad habits whenever 6 AM rolls around.

Still, I am reading this cool book that gives me some solace, despite the impending cheeseless January. The book is called Daring Greatly, and it’s all about how being vulnerable and taking risks lead to the most valuable experiences of most people’s lives, even if they also open us up to some of the greatest hurt. Not doing the Whole30 is certainly a more guarded way to go – incremental change in our eating habits, after all, would be ideal and not dramatic at all. Still, I’ve lived enough years of my adult life thinking I was making incremental change to healthy eating only to still find myself watching movies with take-out pizza whenever I’m tired… I’ve changed less than I think. Why not dare greatly about food and see if I can develop some totally new habits? The worst thing that could happen would be a few furious days and a return to my old ways in February, and the best is a wonderful vision: not craving quite so many unhealthy foods! I think I’m ready to give it a shot… after the holidays, anyway. 😛