An Argument for Cooking

January 24, 2014

Yesterday I posted a short video that just totally has been sticking with me this week. The premise? The simple trick to eating healthy is cooking for yourself. Period. How easy is that? Later in the afternoon, I decided to take a walk and listen to the entire audio recording of “How Cooking Can Change Your Life,” which features Michael Pollan of course, and a few others. And let me just say that I’m feeling really convicted.

As for me, my experience with cooking has been a roller coaster. Growing up, the extent of my cooking knowledge was how long to toast my bagel for. I distinctly remember first learning how to make scrambled eggs when I was a sophomore in college. Though it was a very humbling experience to crack my first eggs, from there I grew to love cooking more and more. I bought cookbooks and looked up recipes online. I tried all kinds of new meals, and even dedicated an entire weekend to making New York style bagels (it was a failure—but I tried at least!). Ask anyone who knew me in college and they’d probably assume I still love cooking, because that was something so connected to my identity then.

When we first got married, I totally got into Susie Homemaker mode. Taking care of food was a role I agreed to before we got married (Brian agreed to do the dishes, and as much as I despise cooking these days, it’s still better than dishes in my book). I cooked different dinners every night, bought produce at the farmer’s market, and even prepped lunches for my husband. It was fun for a while, and then—and I don’t know exactly when the change happened—suddenly it became an obligation that didn’t feel enjoyable like it did before.

Fast forward a few years, and I totally hate it. Okay, well, maybe hate is too strong of a word. But it’s really challenging for me. I crave efficiency and have a hard time setting aside long stretches to prepare meals, especially since Brian comes home at roughly different times each night (something I’m totally okay with, but something that messes with my desire to cook in the evenings).

Interestingly enough, when I asked many of you on Facebook what best described how you handle food, almost all of you said you either make food from scratch whenever you can, or go semi-homemade. In fact, only one of you (thank you for being honest, Margarett!) admitted that takeout is sometimes what life looks like. If I’m being 100% truthful here, my relationship with food is always semi-homemade (never from scratch), and at least once a week, I am desperate for takeout (the healthy veggie kind, but still).

Needless to say, I have a long way to go. But I also have a past love for cooking that I’m hoping to draw upon, including lots of amazing cookbooks (and apps!) I’ve collected and kept over the years. Challenging as cooking is for me personally, I recognize that it’s immensely important and that it aligns with my values (and my resolution to live a more disciplined life this year). I also know that one day when we have children, I’d love for cooking to be a big part of our lives.

In an effort to further solidify my convictions, I plan to read Michael Pollan’s most recent book, Cooked, which further outlines the virtues and values of proper cooking.

An Argument for Cooking // thoughtsbynatalie.com

Though I know this will be a tough new habit for me to learn, I’m excited and ready for the challenge. I know I’ll need to really adjust my schedule for the week to allow more time for intentional shopping and food prep, but I trust that it will get easier over time (I have to cling to that hope, haha). I’ll try to snap photos and share recipes for what I make—partially to motivate me to keep going and partially to give you ideas. Cheers to home cooked meals (feel free to encourage me along the way—God knows I’ll need it)!

What’s your relationship been with cooking? Let’s discuss…

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  • Reply Sarah Jaihe Lee January 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I love this post! I agree with Michael Pollan and believe that you should be able to eat anything as long as you cook it yourself. I love anything sweet and cookies are my weakness. However, I never buy them from the store. If I’m craving them, I bust out my baking tools and get to work. It takes 100 times more effort but it tastes 100 time better. Because it requires more work and time on my part, I don’t eat them that often.

    I also firmly believe that when I cook my own meals, I feel and look so better. There was a short period where I ordered food or ate out every night and I felt sluggish, tired and bloated. When I cook from home, I only fill my fridge with vegetables, eggs, fruit, lean meat and whole grains. I automatically eat better food when I cook. Plus, you save a lot of money.

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! I completely agree with you about treats and sweets taking waaaay more effort but tasting so much better and overall being specialty items we only have every once in a while. And yes, I do feel better and healthier when I’m eating food I’ve cooked myself. Cheers to cooking this year!!

  • Reply Brian January 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Great post Nat! I totally get where you are coming from. Food prep and planning has always been a challenge for me. I think it’s important to think for the long term though, and eat home cooked food to enjoy long term health.

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Yes, it really is so much better for the long term—even though it’s a tough habit to learn now!

  • Reply Amanda Jaynes January 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    What a great & honest post. I was pretty ambivalent toward cooking until I moved to Chicago and worked a super stressful job. It got dark and cold so early that I would just hang out in my kitchen at night for hours as a way to pass the time and blow off steam. It became really cathartic for me and now (at least most of the time) I really love it! But honstly… sometimes nothing hits the spot like some good takeout.

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Oh yes, that’s a great point. Perhaps the sunny skies in California are what’s keeping me out of the kitchen? Maybe I should just open my windows and pretend I’m outside while I’m prepping :)

  • Reply Grey January 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Natalie, your feelings about cooking sound a lot like mine. The prep seems to take me soooo long, and I would just rather be doing other things. Luckily, my sister and I live together right now and she likes to cook a lot more. However, I know I need to get in the habit of cooking more myself. I’m rooting for you as you work to overcome that obstacle too! I think the key for me will be getting in the right frame of mind and really focusing on the cooking process as an enjoyable part of caring for myself and others I’m cooking for.

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 27, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Thanks, Grey!! And yes, I am right there with you. We just need to change our attitudes and perspectives on the whole thing. I’ll bet this time next year we’ll both love cooking—practice makes perfect, right?

  • Reply Jessica January 24, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Oh, I love this! I was so inspired when I saw that video via cup of jo that I blogged about it the same day. I make most of our food homemade but get in ruts when I don’t feel like cooking. For me, cooking has always been a big part of my relationship with my husband. He grew up cooking with his family and basically taught me to cook. I love spending that time with him in the kitchen.

    Fast forward a few years, I’m now a stay at home mom to a 4 and 2 year old, my husband works insane hours opening a new business, and now the cooking falls entirely on me. Not only am I cooking by myself, but I’m trying to keep two kids happy while doing it, and like your husband, I never know what time my husband will be home. Because it’s important for me to show my kids how to eat well, I continue cooking. It totally aligns with my values. But damn, sometimes it jut plain hard!

    I look forward to reading your food posts as is something I’m super passionate about!

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

      Oh gosh, that sounds stressful but so, so important! Hopefully I can keep you inspired :)

  • Reply Sarah H January 25, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Great post, for me the key is definitely batch cooking. I don’t always want to spend ages cooking on a weeknight but quite enjoy making something that takes longer on a Sunday afternoon (especially with our current uk weather!). It means on weeknights I can just grab a stew/curry/chilli out of the freezer and I just need to cook some rice or veg. Then we normally have a quick stir fry one night and baked salmon with sweet potato wedges another- both very quick to prep. Having a homemade curry ready for Friday dinner definitely helps resist the takeaway urge (and the great Indian restaurant 5 mins away!!)

  • Reply Megan @ Lush to Blush January 25, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Great post! Like I mentioned in my last comment, I love cooking! But my boyfriend and I take turns (both with cooking and doing the dishes!). He’s Chinese and makes the BEST authentic Chinese food. I stick to healthier versions of comfort food favorites. We both really enjoy cooking from scratch – not saying I make my own pasta or anything, but I do make my own sauces! I avoid eating out as much as I can, but do treat myself every now and then. It’s all about that balance! Good luck with cooking. Hopefully you’ll start to like it again! :)

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

  • Reply Tiffany Roney January 25, 2014 at 9:46 am

    You were in my dream last night! We were grocery shopping and you saw these ice cream sandwiches that you said looked like a good purchase because they were low-fat. And I was like, “Yeah, but I bet the have a lot of sugar — look at the sugar content.” You did and you were like, “Oh, yeah.” They had a lot of sugar and you put them back.

    Not a super-climactic dream, I know, but thought I’d share! Funny to me that I dreamed about you :) And since you’re going to be grocery-shopping more, heads-up on the ice cream sandwiches… DON’T DO IT! :)

  • Reply Theresa January 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you for your honesty in this post, Natalie! I am a newlywed and working in a new job with a long commute… needless to say cooking is the last thing on my mind! Up until this past summer, I’ve always always been a cooker and a lover of wholesome healthy meals, but sometimes life just makes it hard. It is refreshing to know there are other people who truly care about healthy eating but who also struggle with it from time to time. Acceptance and the desire to change are definitely the first steps to be healthier… even if it’s a baby step! Cheers to reaching those important goals while also being patient with life :)

  • Reply Hannah Victoria January 28, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I did Paleo for about three months and really enjoyed the cooking and meal prep aspect of it. However, I started working through some battles of my own with eating, depression, and anxiety, and stopped the trendy cave-man lifestyle. At times, I miss the healthy eating, but the cooking and meal prep can be exhausting! I’m all for eating healthy, but sometimes I just crave some chipotle or gluten free pizza. Sometimes I just crave something I don’t have to make! Life gets busy..

  • Reply Annie G. February 19, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Ever since marriage, and living life as an independent adult, I have totally struggled with this. For me, mainly, my issue tends to be a lack of time. I always claim that if I did have a job out of my house, I felt I could have more time to devote to this, because I truly do love cooking (and eating) and coming up with new recipes, etc. Not dismissing a work from home lifestyle, of course, but being in the presence of my house means, maybe for a break I would start meal prepping, or go to the grocery, or while I’m talking to a client I could get some stuff done, etc. Verses using that time in the office to waste, by idle chit chat in the kitchen with a colleague. All of that being said, what I have found works best is preparation in advance. Some weeks are better than others. Last week – horrible. This week, it’s been great. I was just saying so to Jeff last night! I figured out our menu for the week, did my typical weekend grocery trip, and have got cooking! I know our menus/recipes and personal styles generally vary, but it’s been huge for me to cook something in bigger quantities, or make a casserole, or something out of the crock pot that I can then get more use out of. Like an extra dinner for myself when Jeff is flying late, or sending it with him for lunches for that week. So, since Saturday, I have cooked two dinners, both of which have left us with leftovers for lunch and dinner for the week! I probably won’t be making another dinner until Friday. (Also bc Jeff is working until midnight tonight, I’m doing something with girl friends tomorrow…you get my drift). Monday night we did go out to eat though. And I totally get, and fully understand, that cooking your own food is better for your health and long term life, but honestly, it’s just not feasible to say you’re never going to eat out. And if it was, I personally wouldn’t want to sacrifice that. It’s nice to get out, try new things and places, socialize…and give yourself a break! Last but not least, to answer your question about homemade, semi homemade, etc – I have been thinking about it a lot since I read your post. Last night, the meal I made consisted of Pillsbury Biscuits as part of the base. Again, for me it’s about convenience. But I was wondering to myself…wait, even though I am COOKING my own food, does this not count as what Michael Pollan was talking about? Do I need to be making my own spaghetti sauce? Making my own biscuits, my own bread, my own cream cheese? I mean…where does it start and end? It’s kind of stressful!!

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton February 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      I love that you have a nice system in place—that’s definitely what I’m lacking! Even though I work at home, I never want to waste time prepping dinner when I could be out for a walk, or even catching up with a girlfriend before Brian comes home. I clearly need to work on my scheduling, haha.

      And I totally hear you—what is “homemade” exactly?!? I think it’s okay to use a few items that are semi-prepared for the sake of convenience. It seems like it’s all about balance and just getting in the kitchen. Something I need to learn!!

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