The last time I seriously cooked was January… maybe February. My therapist looks at me and nods the way therapists are apt to do. I’ve just confessed that I hadn’t been eating much the last couple of days and I’m not sure why this time. I can’t make myself cook right now. She nods again. It almost doesn’t feel fair to lay this on her right before she goes out for two months, but I promised honesty this time around—to her, to myself. I hate relying on processed foods so much. She tells me it’s just a strategy and it won’t be long term. I nod, this time. I agree to write sticky notes and a food plan every day I wake up feeling like this.
It lasts for three weeks and I don’t need sticky notes anymore. My diet is heavily reliant on veggie burgers, Gardien, and the Whole Foods salad bar, but there are worse things.
That was almost a month ago. Last week I celebrated my 7-year anniversary of switching over to a plant-based, vegan diet. To celebrate the occasion, I not only decided I should cook but that I should cook something I wouldn’t normally—which these days is just about anything. I spent my morning coffee time on the balcony perusing a couple of my favorite cookbooks putting together ideas. My planned lazy morning slowly turned into a slow-moving assembly line of chopping vegetables and prepping polenta and components of two different sauces. I took a break at lunch time to work out with my trainer and resumed upon my return—inviting a few people over to join me for dinner the next night.
Cooking on a Sunday used to be routine. I would menu plan Friday and pick up groceries on the way back from the gym Saturday. If I had to pinpoint exactly what happened, I simply gave up cooking to write. Finding balance in writing and my life has always been a struggle—a balance in my life with anything has often been a struggle. I’ve written many times about my struggles with anxiety and life in constant recovery of an eating disorder; in hindsight, it’s no surprise menu planning and cooking were the first things to disappear as I delved into my personal stories.
A funny thing happened that Sunday—instead of feeling like I had to be somewhere else, or doing something else, or that anxiety was going to vibrate me out of my own skin—I felt content. Connected. Happy. I wasn’t doing something out of habit but out of a desire to do something I love doing; that I would get to share that with people I care about later was only ganache on the cake.
Yesterday found me back in the kitchen–for a little while anyway. It was a gorgeous summer day that required more outside than anything else so there was nothing terribly extensive or complicated, but the same peaceful feeling prepping veggies for the week, making zucchini bread, and roasting some chickpeas wasn’t there.
My therapist returns this week. We will talk about how I don’t want cooking to become mere habit again. And I will need to admit that my meticulous menu planning and habitual cooking was partially practical but also a means to mask my anxiety and control food another way in my life. Balance. It’s never been something I’ve been good at without a lot of work. Gravity fucks me every time. But, I have a freezer full of veggie burgers and Gardien—just in case.