Thursday, August 9, 2007

Cooking Is... that tastes good.

I heard that on some NPR show and liked it so much I wrote it down.

Cooking is also something I have grown to love doing over the past 6 years. When I moved to Ann Arbor in 1998 for graduate school I barely knew how to make toast. Suddenly I found myself living alone in an apartment with a fully stocked kitchen that I was expected to use to feed myself. I could no longer count on Mom or the college dining room to prepare food for me. Thus cast into the ocean, it was sink or swim time. I stayed afloat...barely. I ate a lot of Lipton Rice & Sauce, macaroni and cheese, tuna melts, Gardenburgers, cereal, omelets, bagels, and Chinese takeout. My repertoire was limited and my confidence low.

All of that changed when I met and subsequently moved in with my husband. Now I had to feed two (and occasionally, three when James came to visit) people. Rice & Sauce and tuna melts weren't going to be enough. I was going to have to (gasp) learn how to cook.

It was surprisingly easy. I got a couple of cookbooks I really liked, and worked my way through them. After all this time, all I had to do was follow a recipe? That's it? To quote the film Ratatouille (again), "Anyone can cook!" It was true! I found myself churning out pasta with gorgonzola cream, beef barley soup, potatoes gratin with Gruyère, chocolate cakes made from scratch, roast pork loin with currant sauce...One of the side effects of my culinary awakening was that I gained a lot of weight. Eating spaghetti carbonara or filets mignon with shallot-mustard-cream sauce can do that.

Unfortunately, the nights of of stick-of-butter and pint-of-cream cooking had to come to an end once I started Weight Watchers. Eating that kind of rich food was not going to help me lose weight. That is not to say I completely abandoned all of my pre-Weight Watchers favorites. I still make them...occasionally. They aren't staples, they're treats. Just like pizza, beer, and ice cream, there are some things I could never give up for the rest of my life. That is why I love Weight Watchers so much. The program is designed to accommodate occasional indulgences. It expects me to take advantage of its flexibility. Sometimes I do (pizza on Tuesday, ice cream last night) but most of the time I do not. It's the "do not" part that has helped me lose 43 pounds thus far.

Now, back to cooking. I have reached a point where I do not need to read a recipe to create a meal. I have reached the realm of...improvisation! My favorite no-recipe, improvised dish is "Pasta with Tomato, Onion and Whatever Else Is Laying Around" sauce. I made it last night. I had a bunch of fresh tomatoes I wanted to use before they started getting squishy. I had two turkey sausages in the freezer. I had an open can of tomato paste. I had a jar with two lonely sun-dried tomatoes. I had an herb garden with oregano and basil. One diced yellow onion, clove of garlic, and jar of my mother-in-law's homemade tomato sauce later, I had a pan full of chunky, hearty sauce simmering away and a pound of whole-wheat pasta ready to dump into a pot of boiling water. Last night's dinner was apparently a big hit because between the four of us (myself, John, James, and my father-in-law, Chris) we ate all of it. Every last strand of linguine and spoonful of sauce was gone. That's my favorite kind of meal-- no leftovers!

No comments: