I loved to cook and bake when I was a kid. I’d invent recipes, thrilled when they were delicious enough to inscribe on my mother’s recipe cards and slip them into her little green cooking box. Most of my creations, like my root-beer strawberry muffins, were flops. But I adored watching my parents and siblings crowd around my gooey chocolate chip cookies with extra vanilla and a smidgen of peanut butter.
People fellowship over food. Just last night I had a marvelous conversation with my best friend as I cooked her fettuccine with mushroom & spinach cheese sauce (yum!). We’ve all been to the requisite potlucks and BBQs and chewed our grandmother’s famous potato salad. People exult over their plates, recipes shuffle. And my dad is one of many men currently attempting to win this year’s rib-off.
When I developed my disorder, I stopped inventing recipes. When I cooked, it was only to create meals that were carefully within my latest diet’s restrictions. Where I used to simmer chicken with spices and wine and olive oil, I now boiled in water, no matter how tough and dry it made my dinner.
Part of my recovery has been to allow myself to enjoy food again. To spontaneously bake a chocolate cake. To sprinkle mint leaves in lemonade. Suddenly it because about the taste, not the calories. Sure, I make healthy substitutions (did you know applesauce can replace oil in muffins? yum!), but I don’t strip my meals to the bone. I can trust my body to tell me when I need to step away from sweets or when I’m not hungry anymore.
Food gives you energy to live a big, fat, juicy life. But it’s not just fuel – it’s also enjoyable. Allow yourself to feel that again. Enjoying food doesn’t mean you’ll gain fifty pounds. It doesn’t mean you’ll never stop eating. It’s just that the space food occupies in your life can be a pleasant one. And once you’re done with your dish, you’ll move onto the next scrumptious adventure: rock climbing, the movies, succeeding at your job, or kissing your baby’s cheeks.
So here’s my challenge to you: don your toque. Make a recipe today. Bake french bread or make chocolate chip cookies. Make muffins or pasta with homemade sauce. Fish. Chicken. Stuffed tomatoes with mushrooms.