The lie I have been telling myself for a long time is, “I love to cook’. Truth be told…
I HATE COOKING.
There you have it. Black and white, dead honest. I have been seemingly torturing myself for years, trying to convince myself I do like to cook. But gosh, it feels so damn freeing to say I hate cooking. I am sorry if you thought my revelation might be more dramatic than this…but more me – it was profound.
On a subconscious level, I want to enjoy cooking. Afterall, I often proclaim ‘food is medicine’. Wholesome food that comes from the earth is so nurturing and I truly believe it can heal a person completely.
But I hate cooking.
The idea of spending two hours of my Sunday doing meal prep sounds as appealing as trying to nail Jell-O to a wall, and just like cooking, the idea of cleaning up the damn Jell-O after attempting the act is even more repulsive. It is not so much the act of cleaning, because I love to clean…it is more of the idea of spending countless hours in the kitchen with little reward. At most I get other family members eating and then running away, sometimes with a thanks, quite often not, and more often with an attitude of, “What is this, Mom?”. Or, ‘Why do you keep making this stuff Mom?’ Okay, maybe the lentil/kale/butternut/quinoa casserole with the crispy tofu and vegan alfredo sauce was a bit of a stretch … but I try so hard! I get on a mission to come up with new recipes because perhaps, in my mind, I will finally find the best recipe: one that is super easy, super tasty, probably hitting all colours of the rainbow (got to get those phytonutrients, nutrient dense, super foods in there) and so on.
“The more we get curious about ourselves with unconditional love, the happier we get.”
So, it seems then, there are parts of us that we admire and perhaps proud of, and then there are other parts that we do not particularly care for… Have you ever wondered why? Why don’t you like this characteristic about yourself? After all, there is no one description of the ideal human being, is there? I don’t know who that person would be…do you? Sure, we could all likely describe that ideal person in our mind – but that is YOUR perception of the ideal person and similarly, a perspective of how the world and your environment SHOULD be. This reminds me of what one might be searching for in a soulmate, and I am quite sure that your version is different from mine. So who is right and who is wrong?
The answer is neither because that is just our perspective, our culture and grooming of the mind. That is our belief. I want you to start challenging these beliefs more. Are these truths or lies that you have been telling yourself? If you like this about yourself, then continue to believe it and celebrate and reward yourself. If you don’t, then start being honest and behaving differently to feel differently. A feeling that may bring you more joy in life.
Now, back to the question of why you might not like these character traits? The most likely reason is that your experiences shaped you in believing not to celebrate that trait, characteristic or behaviour. Research in child development has demonstrated self-programming (thoughts, habits and beliefs) are established prior to the age of 7. This is why the Jesuits say, “give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Realize as well, this trait CAN be very culturally based.
That Jesuit quote is the formula/program/protocol for how we think, feel, and behave throughout our lives. Some of it is genetic, but most of it is through learned behaviour. The behaviour was either modelled to us or taught to us in another form, perhaps from the words we heard spoken around us. If I was raised by a tribe of Ugandans, I doubt that I would have an obsession for peanut butter sandwiches, which happened to be a staple in my elementary school lunches. I would also have completely different religious beliefs, fears, needs and desires. My habit formation would be like those of other Ugandans. According to the current society I live in, my behaviours (tendencies and habits) would be viewed as good, bad or neutral.
I’ve tried meal kits. You would think I might embrace them, right? When that box first arrived on my doorstep, I already felt a sense of dread about what might be lurking inside that box (even though I chose the meals – likely in haste). I needed to push myself to open it and when I did, what I found stressed me out even more: colorful recipe cards that described how to make each meal step by step, along with a suggested time frame to complete. This stressed me out even more. What if I didn’t complete it in this time frame, would that count as a failed attempt? What if I wanted to do step 3 before step 1 – then what? I was tempted to bury the box in the backyard to hide all evidence of it, but the food waste guilt would be too much for me. I’m the kind of person who will still eat the leftovers off my children’s plates rather than throwing it in the bin when cleaning up after a meal.
My husband has a completely different relationship to cooking. It baffles me to hear him whistling in the kitchen while preparing a meal. What, I think to myself, are you actually enjoying yourself? How is this possible?
I am always trying to analyze my behaviour – one of the drawbacks of being a therapist, I might add – so I wondered ‘what is it about the act of cooking that I dislike?’ Besides the lack of gratification from my children that is.
I came to realize it might be that I am not a big rule follower, so the whole idea of precise measurement and ‘steps’ does not bode well with my psyche. I discovered this about myself in first year psychology class at university. When the professor spoke of different theories of development or behaviour formation, I always thought to myself, “Just because this old dude from way back suggested this theory doesn’t mean we have to still believe in it, come on people!”. I love a good thought challenge. I also got C+ in that class, which was my lowest mark in post-secondary studies ever. Ha ha!!
It also may be because I don’t like doing acts or behaviours that ‘create disarray’. Just as Gretchen Rubin proclaims, ‘Outer order, inner calm’, so too is my motto. So, organizing, cleaning, tidying, etc. is my jam. Oh, I don’t make jam either, by the way, as you will have likely guessed. I don’t can garden produce and you will never see some sourdough ‘starter’ or something ‘sprouting’ in the corner of my kitchen. I prefer to buy it instead or, if it’s too expensive, do without. Everything I do in the kitchen needs to be very basic, quick, and simple.
The more we get curious about ourselves with unconditional love, the happier we get. However, it is equally important to look at our weaknesses (e.g., cooking) and figure out a solution. Lacking a love for cooking is a weakness, despite what I said about societal pressure. Why? Because cooking food at home is a skill that you do need to teach your children if you want them to succeed in health and wealth. Going out to eat is both costly and unhealthy. Restaurant food will always be loaded with more sugar, salt, fat, and processed seed oils because they need to make a profit and they aren’t going to do it with olive oil and pure maple syrup.
So how do I deal with these conflicting realities? My solution is to first admit this to my family and myself (with no apologies!). I am not going to pretend I am Wonder Woman in the kitchen when I am not. Secondly, I need to compromise. This may include me desperately bargaining/begging my husband and seeing what duties we can swap out. Need me to clean toilets? No problem, happy to do so! Also – when I do cook, I stick to the basics, which means I cook like my mom did. Stop attempting recipes you find in those NYT cooking videos or on the YouTube channel of some social media food goddess.
(That is the other ironic thing, I frick’n love watching cooking videos … what is up with that? Maybe it is me being fascinated with the well-organized and beautiful meals. I feel like a 5-year-old walking into the Magical Kingdom for the first time. Seriously, I feel like Peter Pan in Never-Never land – because to me – this act of cooking is truly Never-Never land.)
What is my idea of a great Sunday? Writing, finding a way to be in nature, cleaning, organizing, learning (usually through podcasts), perhaps grabbing a coffee, perhaps a bit of shopping, spending time with friends, family, etc. You’ll notice cooking isn’t on that list, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for that.. It is NOT me – and that is okay. I realize that the idea of loving to cook it is so culturally fixed in women’s psyche. It is at these times that I think of my own mother and say ‘Wow, how did you do it with 9 kids mom?’ Momentarily I feel incredibly guilty… but then I stop that thought habit and challenge it.
I remind myself that those were different times with different expectations, and honestly, I think my mom feels she is more fortunate than I because that life was a lot less complicated then. I think June Cleaver would agree. It is okay because my life is/was not her life, or any other woman’s life. Yes, culturally we are taught that we as women should embrace cooking food for our families. God knows I admire those women. But I am not one of them. And that is okay.
Intuitively, you may have noticed this post is a continuation of last week’s post on how to bring more joy in your life. I started to write to gain awareness of my thoughts. I realized that the before and after thoughts of preparing a meal put me in a place of dis-ease. I realized that after watching cooking videos, I felt guilty, bad, and useless. All these clues came through by allowing myself to slow down and gather my thoughts. I hope you can do the same this week.