I’ve been in a depressing food slump since returning to regular full-time working hours back in January and last week decided to start creeping back into cook-at-home mode. Mealtime is important to me. I like it official at a table with real dishes and multiple courses and no electronic devices in sight. The reality, though, is that I eat at my desk or standing over the sink or, worse, on the couch in front of the TV (and computer and phone all at once).
Part of it is that I’ve lost the free time I used to have for cooking and baking whenever I felt like it, but more of it, I guess, is that I’ve lost my curiosity about food. Just after college when I first made my switch from reading nutrition facts to reading ingredient labels, I became hyper-vigilant about what’s in my food and where it comes from. What went into the food I ate became more important than how few calories it had, a revolutionary concept for me at the time. Suddenly all the fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb “health” foods lost their allure when I learned about what was in them. And so began my love affair with whole unprocessed food–full fat, real sugar, and all the (right) carbs–and the beginning of the end of a lifetime of disordered, misguided food restriction.
From there I started experimenting in the kitchen, figuring out ways to make the stuff I know and love but with ingredients that passed a new higher standard. I learned new techniques, tried new foods and told everyone about it. That’s where blogging started. For the first time in my life I wasn’t actively trying to lose weight by eating as little as possible and, wouldn’t you know it, with this new approach to real food (plus the start of my yoga practice) I lost a bunch of weight. I eventually decided to study nutrition to see if, how and why the new way I was eating was in fact the right fuel for my body.
I studied everything from the microbiological effect of food inside our cells to the greater socioeconomic implications of our global food system. I worked in food science labs and food pantries and government agencies and school cafeterias. I learned about hunger and obesity and how to calculate the exact ratio of nutrients in a feeding tube formula. I memorized nutrition needs for AIDS patients and diabetes patients and heart patients and pregnant women and athletes and every stage of life from conception to death. I built a virtual restaurant from the ground up (architectural blueprints, appliance selection, menu creation, food sourcing and go-to market strategy). I re-wrote vegetarian versions of USDA-compliant school menus. I launched PlateShare. I was curious (and passionate) about everything. I devoured food and anything I could learn about it.
But at its simplest, I just cooked for myself every night because I love it. And that’s all I really miss, bringing it back to food.