Food as a means of creative expression

The week didn’t actually start off too bad. A good weekend, felt a bit unwell, but the doctor checked me out and said it didn’t seem like anything serious. Monday night we went a New Zealand movie called The Weight of Elephants. A very poignant look at life for a little boy in small town New Zealand.

If you read my mid-week post you will know things were a bit upside down around Thursday. It all began with a statement from my Englishman that he was feeling a bit “fat” and the blame lay at my door; in particular the potatoes I cooked with the steak the night before. I counted back that over the past 7 days that I had only cooked 3 out of a possible 21 meals for him and felt the statement was really unfair. We have since talked about it and have worked on a compromise. He will look to cut down on his food intake elsewhere, exercise a bit more and I can still cook the meals I want with an option for him to eat less of the things that he feels are contributing to his weight gain. Just between me and you, I don’t think he needs to lose any weight…..

Over the course of the week I have been trying to figure out why I got so upset about needing to curb my cooking impulses. Having being forced to retire from my career as a Food Technologist for medical reasons two years ago while going through a separation and divorce meant I have had to reinvent myself. During the time I was married, other than some study and my care of the house, I had no outside interests. I didn’t listen to music, didn’t indulge in my love of movies, very rarely read and didn’t do anything for fun. When my husband was away playing golf; which was most weekends and some week day evenings, I worked on my Postgraduate Diploma. Cooking was a non event because he was a vegetarian with fixed food preferences and hated me cooking anything new or different because he felt obliged to eat it. His favourite nights were when I said I didn’t feel like cooking and we could have takeaways or he could have bananas on toast.

After Jacob was born, there was even less opportunity for creative expression. It was only partway through last year that I came into my own in terms of my creativity. I reignited my interest  in food and expressed my creativity through both my cooking and the writing of this blog. Now the ability to express myself through both mediums keeps me sane. Other than Jacob’s care, I have very little gauge for measuring my success. And given all his medical and behavioural issues, as a measure of how well I am doing- it is a bit hit and miss. For example, last night I forgot his milk in the microwave and put him to bed without the cornstarch which keeps his blood sugar stable overnight. He woke up in a real “sh**y mood this morning and it has taken a cup of milk, two pieces of chocolate, two marshmellows and breakfast to get his blood sugar up to normal. The ketone build up in his brain means he will have a more or less grumpy day for the remainder of today. And as a result I feel like the worst mum in the world.

When I got told I couldn’t cook as I wanted because it made him fat, I felt stifled. That a huge component of what the relationship meant to me felt no longer relevant. Memories of sharing a meal I had put a lot of love into sustained me for the times when life was difficult. The creation of the meal gave me  sense of self. I reveled in the fact that I had the freedom to find a recipe somewhere, go shopping for the ingredients and create it in the space of a few hours. I was already operating within the egg and nut free environment at home and my need for gluten free/lactose free meals on the Low FODMAP diet. So while it wasn’t total freedom, I could still cook a lot of things in my new Gluten Free Cookbook. And we all know as writers that there would be no point writing if we did not have someone to read what we write. So more so than the cooking, sharing that meal with an appreciative audience was the final measure of success for me. That is why I alluded to my wings being clipped in the mid-week post.

I know this is temporary and he has gone to a lot of effort to reinforce that he really does enjoy my cooking and the fact that it is so good is why he finds it hard to eat less. So while I am not back where was in terms of excitement when I cooked last Wednesday night’s meal of Steak cooked Heston Blumenthal’s way, Hasselback Potatoes courtesy of Jamie Oliver and Sweet Stemmed Broccoli cooked in butter with lemon and sesame seeds ; I know I can consider this a challenge and make the meals more healthy while still expressing my creativity.

I am however caught somewhat by surprise at the realisation how important cooking has become to me and how I no longer want a relationship where food is not a shared joy.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh my goodness, what an inspiring post. I love to see how you process this comment from your boyfriend. The reason I am so astounded is that you show how you found your power in this situation. You did not just bitch and complain, nor did you bury your feelings and say it was “fine”. You honored your initial response and went into yourself to see what it all meant. I loved this story. And, of course, you are not the worst Mom!! Love always triumphs forgotten cornstarch 🙂

  2. Thanks Kimberly. As always you have added fresh perspective to my writing. I am hoping that my journey of self realisation has made enough of a difference in how I behave in this relationship. One of my biggest failings used to be not speaking my truth when it mattered. And as you said your post a couple of weeks back, when we know ourselves, we allow other people to fit in around us. On a lighter note, the Englishman says to tell you that he doesn’t agree with the “didn’t bitch and complain” bit in your comment:)….

  3. Hi, I like the way you ended this post ‘….. I no longer want a relationship where food is not a shared joy.’ I too am passionate about food, either dining out or cooking at home. Like you, I cook with love in every ingredients in my food and it is a joy to see the person enjoying their food together, be it family, loved ones or friends. 🙂

    1. Hi Jess,
      Yes, it was an important realisation and I think at this age, we should no longer compromise on the things that are important to us. It is an expression of love I think for both you and me and it is up to the people we are with to realise that:)

      1. Totally agreed my friend. Great post. 🙂

  4. Jean says:

    Have you ever considered teaching cooking at a community centre, etc.? Do consider it. Or how about a catering service. Think about it.

    My partner’s mother loved cooking and baking. It was one of her outlets for creative self-expression. It was fine southern German cuisine…which influenced by French cooking. 6-layer cake tortes, etc. Stuff where we cannot find German cookbooks in English for these heritage recipes. http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/tour-de-gateau-torte-and-kugelhopf/

    She died at 93, her legacy well-loved, well-remembered…and now a grandson is a chef at a hip restaurant in Toronto which is like a Jamie Oliver place that teaches difficult to employ folks some skills. http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/come-and-get-your-dumpling-some-west-east-comparisons/ He has occasionally made and served dumpfnudel in this restaurant but he had to rebrand it as “Alsatian steamed buns with custard sauce”.

    Write of the memory and influences for your cooking …it will be a legacy for Jacob.

    1. What a cool idea. No I hadn’t seriously considered this before. But will certainly think about it. Thank you so much.

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