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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cooking Days: For the love of kitchens

Why "cooking days"?  Everyone, especially when you're chronically ill, needs something to bring them confidence. Cooking was the first thing that I found out I could be good at. 

Finding an apartment in Cincinnati with a large kitchen is virtually impossible. I fought hard to get this particular apartment because it had, by Cincinnati standards, a huge kitchen. It even has two whole feet of counter space, plus a dining area! By my standards, this kitchen is laughably small. And I do believe that I have never loved anything more than I love this tiny, awkward little kitchen.

We didn't take much with us on this move, and most of what we did bring was my kitchen stuff. Being able to cook immediately upon arriving was very important to me -- it's something that I can do well, and something that I can do to help us stay healthy and save money.

Following that line of thought, when we moved in, we decided to deck out the kitchen first. It took us more than a month to buy a couch, but by our third day here, we had a dining table and chairs, a hook to hang my aprons on, and a well-stocked pantry and freezer. The kitchen still needs a little bit of work -- we just added the shelving unit yesterday, and I plan on getting an island some time in the future. This room is still the only room that resembles a home. The living room looks like someone ransacked an IKEA (we did) and doesn't know what to do with it (we don't) and the bedroom has a mattress and upside down cardboard box that we put our fan on. Furnishing a kitchen, though, is so much easier.The important things are already there. You just have to figure out how to make it work best for you.

It has meant so much to me to have this kitchen. Even when our living room was just two chairs and some coasters on the windowsill for water glasses, it felt like home because there was a bright, friendly kitchen. I haven't cooked too many masterpieces, nor have I tried for anything too out-of-the-ordinary...but much of that is due to the heat, and my mistrust of electric ovens. But I love having one space that feels like it is completely mine, a kindred spirit of a place. I feel happy every single time I walk in it.

I'm certainly not a master chef, and I frequently make meals that are less than appetizing, and I absolutely get tired of cooking every single day...but honestly? I love it. This is the first area of my life where I have ever felt confidence - had the knowledge that I can learn and adapt, and provide for me and mine. And this kitchen? It's the first place that I've ever felt like I belonged.

With a chronic illness, we often feel useless. I  frequently have to be reminded (thanks, sweetie, you're a champion!) that I do provide something, even if it just a whole lot of pasta. In order to cook every day, I do have to scale down my efforts -- learning simple dishes with good, but few ingredients and few steps, in order to be able to manage it. We're not useless, we just have to re-evaluate what it means to be useful. Having a safe, comforting environment amplifies my self-esteem which actually amplifies my ability to be of use.

What do you provide? What gives you confidence?

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