For the love of food / by Christina Rosalie

I spent the day in the garden: discovering what weeks of rain and heat and neglect can do to leggy tomatoes and lettuces. Do you know that when a lettuce bolts, it shoots up four feet tall? I’ve learned so much from my garden this year—my first in this state, in this rocky soil and micro growing season. I planted too many lettuces at the same time, and now I’m stuck waiting for new seedlings to take hold and grow into big fat heads, while all the ones I previously planted were ready at exactly the same time and have now all grown bitter and bolted. I also planted far too many radishes and mustard greens, which grow wildly and rapidly bolted within a month. I left them in for a while, an invitation to the honey bees. What I’ve loved and will repeat are the beautiful artichokes, the watermelons and pumpkins, the bush beans, tomatoes, and sweet peas. I used sticks from the woods to prop the peas up, and today harvested a colander full, which I shucked and had a lovely bowl full of jewel-green peas. Now the only question is how should I cook them?

The sad fact of the matter is that in addition to being a complete amateur gardener, I am even more of an amateur cook. I lack any and all ability to improvise in the kitchen, throwing a few ingredients together in a way that makes the flavors jostle and dance. And it’s something I’m not proud about at all. In fact, it makes me feel somehow very, oh, I don’t know, like a bad mother, to be honest.

DH cooks almost all of our food—he wooed me with oysters in white wine, polenta with chevre and sundried tomatoes, fried ravioli with sage, ridiculously tender steaks and new potatoes. But when push comes to shove his default foods tend to fall into two categories: meat and pasta, and after a while I feel like I should somehow be summoning the rich culinary tradition of my mother. She makes exquisite food using multiple grains and veggies and everything she makes is always exploding with flavor.

Her good food nourished me growing up, and gave me something I treasure: a truly healthy attitude towards food. I don’t eat for comfort; I can leave a half a cookie on my plate if I feel full; and I crave salad and fresh fruit over anything processed. But damn, for all that, I can’t cook anything. And it’s something that I want to change. I want to give Bean, and this new little Sprout the same kind of soul nourishment my mother’s food gave me.

Okay, so I can make practically anything if I follow a recipe, but I get daunted easily and NEVER know what to buy at the grocery store. Our refrigerator and pantry are always full and yet we never seem to have any ingredients to make anything. It’s a dire and sad state of affairs. How do I change this?

I’ve been thinking about food because my attitude towards it has been severely altered by this pregnancy: now everything is mostly unappealing. I have no cravings, and in fact have an aversion to almost every single food product you can think of. Truly, it feels like being cursed. I have perhaps never fully considered just how much I enjoy food. It’s both the ritual of eating together and the nourishment that I love about it, and I miss both with a vengeance. Bread products are the only non offenders.

So I have questions: how shall I cook my sweet peas? And also, how can I possibly go about learning to cook? Not crazy fancy stuff. Just simple wholesome meals using the foods I love: fresh local veggies and fruits, grains, nuts, etc.

If you love to cook, I want to know how you make meals? How do you plan? How do you purchase food for the week? How do you decide what to make for dinner—and make it without it taking two hours and using every pot in the kitchen?