Sunday, August 15, 2010

How Cooking Helps me Express Myself

How Cooking helps me Express Myself
This is not a recipe on how to cook some kind of foods, rather it just one the lessons I’m learning about food, and how it relates to life. Food just like anything in life can become what you want it to be, some people look at food as if food is an enemy that they need to fight. In the sense that is some people constantly talk about what they cannot eat, or how eating certain kinds of food can be very harmful to them. While I don’t disagree that there are certain foods that can be bad for our heath, I believe that it is the attitude one has towards food, not the food itself that can be very harmful. When I was growing up I didn’t eat a lot, sometimes I was forced to finish up my plate of food before I could go out and play. I saw food at that early age as a dread, not as something I enjoyed, because I basically ate so I could have the energy to do more important things. The preparation of food is another story, growing up I often stood in the kitchen where the food was being prepared, and I watched how different things were chopped or minced to add flavor to the food. The idea of me being present at the kitchen when the food was being prepared was to ensure that I could learn how to cook, but being young and very self-possessed I pretended to be watching my sister, aunty, or mom prepare the food, but really could care less.When I first started living on my own with roommates, I realized that most of the things I was supposed to be learning from the lessons I got about cooking, early on fell on deaf ears because I couldn’t fix a meal without asking for a recipe. I had to re-learn all the procedures on how to make a good meal and in the process began to express myself.
The first thing I realized about cooking is that even though it can be a lot of work is actually fun if you put your mind to it. For example, I’m trying to make a recipe with salmon; I have to make sure I put in the right ingredients inside, and the right amount to get a good salmon dish. And if I put in let’s say too much peppers, or garlic, my dish is not going to come out right. This philosophy is the same with life, whatever you put into something, that’s what you’re going to get out of it. If I diligent and careful with the choices I make in life, and also learn from my mistakes and others, I’m more likely to have a fulfilling life. One way you can tell the character of a person, is to go back and review the choices that they have made throughout their life, and how those choices impacted them. One thing that allows me to enjoy cooking, is that I appreciate so many different kinds of food, and I try to understand the culturally aspect of it. Cooking I believe tells a story. Africa is a very large component, and in Nigeria alone, we have all kinds of food, generated from different cultures. Taking a particular dish from any part of Nigerian, and researching on how the food came about, and understanding how this particular food identifies with this culture, can help anyone not only appreciate the food, but also enjoying making it.
The second thing I realized about cooking is that it can be a way to branch out and explore new things. Food sort of pushes you out of your comfort zone, because it exposes you to taste different kinds of food some of which you would want to try on your own. I used to be the kind of person that can play it safe with my cooking, make the same thing every other day and just stick to what I know. While people like my friend Folasike would taste something in a restaurant and Google up the food online to try to find out the ingredients, to make it, I was comfortable making the same things every other night. My favorite foods were jollof rice, fried rice, plantain, egusi soup, potatoes and egg, e.t.c and I would repeat this trend month after month, for years. It wasn’t until my friend brought it up about me not tired of eating the same thing, that I realized it was time for me to explore new things, and expand my knowledge of food. It wasn’t that I didn’t get tired of eating the same thing, the thought of learning something new and not having the time to do so, was something I wasn’t prepared to do. In other words do not get comfortable doing the same things, add some spice in your life by reading up new things, and challenging yourself to be better.
Cooking is also a way of growing as a person, because not everything you learn will come out great. When I first started to bake, I didn’t always measure well, I also put too much of eggs or butter which made my cake either too hard or too soft. I had to learn to discipline myself to take out my measuring cup and add the right amount of baking soda or milk. The idea is that in life you often make mistakes, but the beauty of making mistakes is that it teaches you a better way to handle a problem or look at a situation. One thing that I’m definitely learning form cooking is to tell myself to be patient because something’s take time. Taking for example, the first time I tried Ogbono soup, it didn’t come out as thick as I wanted it, that made me a little discouraged because I viewed myself as a failure. After trying Ogbono soup for the third time it became better, and I felt more confident. Now Nigerian foods are not the only things I make, I’m now practicing how to cook some Italian foods, since I love eating at Italian Restaurants’.
My last point about cooking is that it can help anyone express his/her. At least that’s what cooking does for me, I am a very simple person, who is also reserved but once in a while I like to surprise people with different things I can do. I am not the type of person, one can easily figure out, you’d have to study me very closely to understand me on a deeper level, and just when you think you got me figured out, then I come up with some new thing. That’s the same way with cooking, when I cook you can see my heart, you can tell I genuinely love what I’m doing because I cook with love. When people enjoy what I make I feel loved. There are some dishes that you can tell it sooooo me, the way I make it and also the taste of the food is just a description of my personality. Once in a while I surprise people by doing something completely different, something that they don’t expect because that’s just the way I am. I am somebody who is always curious, and someone who loves to learn about so many different things so I can be well rounded.
I don’t know about you but if every single day of my life is an opportunity to learn and to grow, then that’s what I’ll do. You get out of life what you put into it. Cooking became a fun experience for me, and I know you can learn to enjoy it too. Don’t see cooking as a chore, or a must do activity, instead view cooking as an occasion to not only expand and broaden your knowledge about food, but also as a way of expressing yourself. Love you guys!