I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today, so I googled, “random writing prompt generator.” What popped up was, “write about your relationship with food.” PERFECT, I LOVE FOOD.
I’ll start by saying, I’ve always been a little overweight. Maybe that’s not the best way to start writing about my relationship with food, but I think it’s an excellent place for some context. I was 150-ish pounds by the fourth grade, and haven’t dipped anywhere close to that weight since. I’ve never been a picky eater. My parents raised me to eat everything on my plate, with the threat of some unknown consequence. I think overall, it was a positive thing. Besides the more unusual food items like bitter melon, or chicken feet, I’ll pretty much eat anything you put in front of me. I still have friends that say “yuck” when they hear the word “vegetables,” and it makes me cringe!
I was lucky to grow up in a household where my mom and dad both cooked, and a majority of the meals we ate were prepared at home. My love for all things related to eggs came from my dad. Whether it was scrambled eggs, over-easy eggs, or omelets, I learned to appreciate them all. I can walk into the kitchen, fry up a few over-easy eggs, and be eating them in five or so minutes (depending on how long it take the pan to heat up). I can do this with just one hand! Having cracked open so many eggs myself, I just taught myself to do it one-handed. I’m still working on the left hand, though.
The general cooking techniques I learned from my mom. I never knew why we cooked the garlic and onions with the oil first, but I knew to do it from her. I later learned that those things are considered “aromatics,” and the heated oil releases aromas and flavors that you want to impart on whatever dish you’re cooking. I learned to hold the knife a certain way with my right hand and to make my fingers curled in a certain way while holding the onion down on the cutting board with my left hand. I also learned how quickly your finger bleeds when you get lazy and hold the onion lazily.
I was talking to my friend a few years ago, and she told me that her mom would never let her or her siblings into the kitchen when they were growing up. So they never learned to cook from her. It made me appreciate my mom for letting my brother and I bother her in the kitchen and help her cut up veggies or stir the aromatics while they simmered in the pan. Sometimes when people tell me they “know how to cook”, what they mean is they know how to boil water in the microwave and make instant ramen, or Kraft mac and cheese. I’m so thankful I was lucky enough to have parents that had the time and patience to at least teach their kids the basics.
Sure I’ve been overweight, but that’s probably because of portion control. I’ve never been one to down full-sugar soft drinks or fast food more than once every other week. One of the things I was lucky to have, three out of my four years in college, was a kitchen. No matter how busy I was with school, I’d take an hour or two to cook every night. It was relaxing and rewarding, and probably great for mental health. I lived with guys from Hawaii throughout college, so we always had a rice cooker with rice in it. We’d always have a Costco sized bag full of onions, and a case of cream of mushroom. Cooking prep usually started by dicing up some onions, then cooking some kind of meat product, and topping it off with cream of mushroom. We are the kings of meat, onions, and cream of mushroom dishes! Full of flavor, always filling, and the naps afterward were beautiful.
I moved home after college and was sucked into the world of endurance sports by my brother. First into cycling, and then into full-on triathlons. It consumed me for three years. In that time, my relationship with food transformed from one of pleasure to one of sustenance. I thought about food as a fuel source rather than something to just be enjoyed. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the food I was eating, my mindset just shifted. I think it was healthy for me to develop that side of the coin because it’s helped me the last couple of years on my various dieting escapades. I’d choose my meals based on the activity I’d be doing the next day, or even in the next few hours. At the time, it was higher carbs before long or intense workouts and more veggies and protein before light activity days. For the most part, I didn’t care how the food tasted because I just wanted to make sure my workouts would be fueled for optimum performance. If I was going to spend a bunch of money on the sport and dedicate 10-20 hours a week training, I was going to make sure I got the most out of the workouts.
Fast forward to today, my relationship with food is quite healthy. I wouldn’t say it’s a positive or negative relationship. My goal is 80% of the time to eat as clean as possible. That means no processed carbohydrates, a decent amount of veggies, and as little processed protein sources as possible. So I consume a lot of steak and ground meats, like beef, bison, or turkey. I try to eat various types of veggies of varying colors to get a broader spectrum of micronutrients. On days that I workout, I make sure to accompany the whole foods with multivitamins and other supplements like collagen, flaxseed oil, and spirulina, to name a few. The other 20% of the time is alotted for those days when I’m celebrating someone’s birthday, or playing at a wedding with a unique spread of delicacies. That 20% is meant for guilt-free eating of that chocolate Dobash cake or that bread pudding with haupia sauce.
My love for cooking and my triathlon days have molded a pretty healthy and sustainable relationship with food. It helps me cook delicious yet “clean” food on a majority of my days, and be okay with eating that cake on those few and far between days.