Cooking: A Means of Relationship Building

Everybody eats, and when we are together it makes sense to share the job of getting a meal together. It’s called cooking, most of the time, and it’s one of my least favorite jobs. Knowing that I have to think of something to eat, two or three times every day, for the entirety of my life sounds like cruel punishment to me – made tolerable only by sharing the load.

My children have sometimes made the job easier, but a lot of our bonding over food is because they have made it more complicated. Youngest daughter E decided to be vegetarian in her early teens. My memory of those years is foggy, but there were a lot of brownies, and peanut butter/jelly sandwiches for her. The rest of us ate everything, but it was hard for me to think I might be shortening her life by not feeding her better.

Oldest daughter J, on the other hand, was early into amateur chef behavior. Even on our hike on the Appalachian Trail, she was the one who had to bring real coffee, and fixings for blueberry pancakes. Now I have given up learning how to use all the machines she has in her kitchen. Electric crepe griddle, blenders, choppers, mixer, espresso machine, ice cream maker, air fryer, steamers, driers, toasters, more – I just can’t think of them all. I find cooking with her very interesting because it’s about the only time I really use a recipe, and I get to learn a new gadget. I am in awe of her knife collection, and her many pans.

Looks dangerous, I know. What are all these?

Cooking with E became easier when she started eating more food and searching out some of her health problems. We spent time on special diets like the autoimmune protocol, where we did things like making spaghetti sauce out of beets, and talking about umami, and boiling bones for hours and hours. One of her favorite recipes from childhood is still the meatloaf made out of everything except meat.

We had fun making ordinary food. No beets were involved.

Even though I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen on fussy food, I have inherited a gene that demands food on social occasions. I get it from Mom, better known in the family as Cinnamon Girl. She always make the cinnamon rolls for our family gatherings and although we have all tried to learn, no one does it quite like she does. The feature film “Cinnamon Girl”, made by my marketing guru brother, is a family treasure. It was supposed to be a tutorial for us all, but we laugh so much that it’s more of a comedy documentary.

I find that bonding and relationship building over and around food is really pretty available, easy and satisfying. I text the daughters and send pictures when I make milk soup. We laugh over our dinner menu of popcorn, just popcorn. We have rituals involving donuts and ice cream. Maybe it’s not all technically “cooking” but that’s where I put it. Just sayin’… close enough.

The chicken is sitting in a really awesome pan! Also, all those spices in matching bottles – I’ve never been able to do that…

4 thoughts on “Cooking: A Means of Relationship Building

  1. Hi Shirley! Found you by way of Frank at Beach Walk Reflections.
    We are a country & family fixated on food. So of course, I followed my nose to this post, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading because so many things you said resonated with me: the nature of the chore, feeding challenging eaters, family gatherings & rituals, the shared community around food.

    For a long long time, I was embarrassed to admit that I cooked – I considered what I did in the kitchen “assembling”. Compared to my mother’s kitchen (she is the quintessential “cook by feel” culinary force), I couldn’t call what I did by the same name. But as muddling through motherhood and deciding to use food prep & baking as a tool for growing & educating our 2 homeschooled children, we became more confident together.

    Today, they are both bakers & cooks in their own right. Like you, we continue to exchange recipes and tips. And yes, I will admit to cooking in my kitchen.

    • Nice to make your acquaintance! and thanks for the interesting comment. I just give up and call most everything done in the kitchen cooking, but you’re right, some of it is mostly assembling. But that also takes a bit of creativity. Keep having fun in the kitchen!

  2. I’m right there with you. I despise thinking of things to make for meals every day, consequently there are a lot of repeat menus! Hello Fresh is something my daughter gets weekly and she has all the ingredients and recipes for some amazing meals right at her fingertips every night. I may try it eventually – but there are still breakfasts and lunches…
    Donna Smith

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