When I first learned how to cook it was more out of necessity than anything else. My mother was an extremely busy single parent, she was not fond of cooking, and I was an on only child. Three strikes against me that required me to figure out the inner workings of the kitchen. It pretty much boiled down to survival. My aunt and grandmother are fond of telling the story of how they came over to visit my mother one day and found me standing over the stove scrambling eggs. I was eight years old.
My mother likes to joke that my ability to cook is a gift because I certainly didn’t get it from her. For sure she taught me the traditional meals-collard greens, mac-n-cheese, fried chicken, sweet potato pie. There are many dishes I learned how to cook on my own such as enchiladas, apple pie,fried cabbage, beef stew, and chili, to name a few. I’ve also picked up other people’s recipes. Gumbo and lemon jello cake from my close friend. Taco soup from my in-laws. Anything else is just a cook book or Google search away from preparing.
A change in my spiritual practice was accompanied with a switch in my eating habits. Buddhist are traditionally vegan, though it’s not a requirement. I do favor meat so cutting it out completely was not something I was prepared to do. It wasn’t until I attended my first meditation retreat that my paradigm shifted. Residential meditation retreats provide meals for its attendees, meals that are vegan and 100% organic. I will say that I’ve eaten the best vegan meals I’ve ever had at Spirit Rock meditation center. Not only were they delicious but they were super healthy. Within the five days I spent at the retreat I had lost ten pounds and my skin had cleared up completely. The experience didn’t convince me to become totally vegan but I did cut back a lot on how much meat I consumed. This provided me with the challenge of learning how to prepare new meatless dishes and change the way I cooked old favorites.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about cooking that I enjoy so much. There’s something therapeutic about being in the kitchen. No matter what kind of mood I’m in by the time I’m finished preparing a meal I’m the better for it. I love the challenge of learning how to make something new and there are an endless number of dishes one can learn how to cook. The best part is cooking for others. It’s a great feeling when people can enjoy something you’ve created.