What cooking taught me about life

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What cooking taught me about life
When you can’t wait to bite into that farmer’s market bok choy…

I didn’t begin cooking from scratch until I hit my 30s. Prior to that it was a lot of arranging food or eating pre-made stuff. Turns out, I really enjoyed it, started a food blog, and now cook super often. Almost every night we’re eating food that I made from scratch. It’s fun, but it’s been revealing when it comes to living life in general.

Cooking as analogy for life is no revelation to most people, but it has been for me. Here’s what cooking taught me about life and happiness…

It’s not how it looks, it’s how it tastes

Sure, having an aesthetically pleasing feast is icing on the (sometimes literal) cake, but when it comes down to it, all that matters is that food tastes good and nourishes you. The same can be said for living a good life. Social media especially has taken this in places we never expected it to go. How filtered are our lives online versus the truth in real life?

Take travel: you can head to a gorgeous destination that’s Instagram filter-pretty, but will it give you as much enjoyment as a weekend with far-flung friends, or a nerdy pop culture convention, or seeing a band you loved from the ’90s (and are maybe a little embarrassed about now)?

Make sure that when you’re choosing your next direction, that it feeds your heart and mind and doesn’t just make you life seem pretty and awesome.

Don’t skimp where it counts

Cooking life lessons: What cooking taught me about happiness

If you’re familiar with The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, you likely already know her love of GOOD vanilla. Not shitty vanilla — good-ass, high quality vanilla. For her, it makes all the difference. For me, this is about the “good vanilla” of life.

Pepper your life with high-quality things when it matters. This could be self-care when you need it, spending a little more on the perfect gift for someone, or investing in a hobby, career training, or a home project. This can also mean investing in your own mental and physical health.

There are usually second chances

Messed up those egg white Japanese pancakes you tried? Grab some new eggs and take another shot. For me, this relates directly to picking myself up after a really terrible few years in my 20s. I had been hit hard by the 2008 recession and had to rebuild. I had to grab some life eggs and whip them up again. It can be done.

Take it low and slow

Like a slow cooker (or that Instant Pot you’re loving), life rarely moves as fast and as easily as you’d like. Although maybe “pressure cooker” isn’t that far from reality, either. The best cuts of meat taste all that much more tender when they’re cooked low and slow. Take your goals in that mindset and keep them simmering until they’re ready.

Take chances

Try cooking that unfamiliar vegan dish and then try something else that’s outside of your comfort zone. New places to travel, taking a risk with a new career… taking chances is what gets people closer to living a life they didn’t know they could even have. It could mean that you’re burning a dish once or twice, but that third time… well, you get the idea. Try something new, something that scares you a little bit.

Don’t forget, there’s always another chance to get things right.

Comments on What cooking taught me about life

  1. My husband and I had a song called “Sometimes we make mistakes in the kitchen” that we would sing when things didn’t go as planed. We promised to never feel guilty about mistakes in the kitchen, and we learned a lot. We sing the song a lot less often now, but it still comes in handy. If the mistake is really really big, we get guilt-free pizza. How bad can cooking be if the worst case scenario is you are eating your favorite pizza?

  2. Thanks for this Catherine! I needed this today–especially the first point! I care WAY too much about what other people think, and I am always hesitant to let myself embrace the things I truly love. For some reason. I guess the awkward teenager in me who was never okay with not fitting in is too concerned with doing/liking the “right” thing. Your words were very encouraging!

    Also- YES to fun vegan cooking!

  3. Yes to doing things that feed your heart and mind! Yes to investing on things that bring more value, yes to taking it low slow and slow and to taking chances! I had fun reading this, Catherine. Great reminders!

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