I have always hated cooking, there I said it. I hated the process of cooking, I hated cutting my own food up because I am a totally clumsy and would cut myself on accident some way or another, and I extremely despise the clean up process after you are done making a meal. I disliked this task so much I would avoid cooking at all costs, which in turn led me to eat out more… And to be completely honest, I was a horrible cook. I had no idea what to cook or how to cook anything…Instant Mac&Cheese and Top Ramen anyone?
For example, one time my boyfriend Igor and I were making soup. We added in the broth and the vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and tomatoes, ect… Igor had already added a little bit of noodles to give it more heartiness to the soup. Not knowing I added A WHOLE BOX of shell noodles which made this soup very thick. As the noodles started to expand, there was almost no broth left. So we just ended up eating a bowl full of brothless noodles, with little vegetables.
There was also another instance when I was making pancakes, the recipe called for vegetable oil and not watching what I was doing, I grabbed an olive oil containing garlic and added it to the pancake mix. When I was in the middle of cooking I was thinking, “Man what smells like garlic?” and as the pancake finished cooking I took one bite and instantly knew I fudged up.
So these are just petite examples of my clumsy cooking experiences, too many to share. But at the beginning of January of 2016 I made it a goal to expand my cooking habits and to explore the art of cooking from scratch.
Although it took me a very long time to get the hang of cooking from scratch, I started with really small and easy recipes to get me started. I’d make omelets, pancakes (without the garlic oil), sandwiches, and stir fry with rice to name a few. As I started to notice that cooking wasn’t really that bad, I started to build the confidence to learn how to make even more complex dishes.
To start, I decided what my staple foods were going to be for the week; Igor and I take turns with making food, so we plan out what meals we like and what each dish requires. We love spaghetti squash (great substitute for noodles) with our own homemade pasta sauce, pesto sauce with chicken (which goes well with almost everything), stir frys including bell peppers, onion, garlic, basil, carrots, broccoli, and boiled & buttered vegetables with rice (which is my favorite). These are the meals we always have ready in our fridge.
We pick one day of the week (sometimes every other day when one of us has the time to cook) and we prepare our dishes ahead of time. This makes it easy for us to grab and go and helps the cooking process go by faster.
With this inspiration to cook from scratch, this year for thanksgiving, we made everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from scratch. We also visited our local farm and bought most of our produce from there. I admit it wasn’t easy but it was sure nice to know that all the food we were making had ingredients that were not a mystery to us.
The food tasted amazing compared to the pre-packaged and instant food we use to get. We also had a well rounded assortment of different dishes from mashed potatoes, to brussels sprouts and cabbage, mixed vegetables, stuffing (made from whole wheat bread that was made from scratch, onions and celery), and of course the turkey.
As I have started to cook from home more and more, I have started to notice that my palate for food has changed as well! If I went out to eat with family or friends, I notice that the food is much more salty and less enjoyable than if I were to make something at home. The food I make tastes way better. As I transition from buying pre packaged foodstuff to making everything myself, It has helped me realize that your taste buds do much more than enhancing the flavor of food, and it plays a real important part of your digestion of food.
Americans have acquired a savory flavored addiction. If it isn’t stewing in sauces and high sodium, it doesn’t taste good. Our palates have conditioned itself to reject “bland” tasting food, or in my view real food, because everything you find in the store is packed with sodium to ensure shelf life. When eating food there are many factors to consider when it comes to taste and proper digestion. The first factor being taste, and how the food feels in your mouth. The second factor is the actual macronutrient content of the food.
Saliva contains calcium, amino acids, nitrogen, natural chlorine, oxygen, ammonia, proteins, carbon dioxide, and sodium. These substances all enhance metabolism, growth and the body’s immunity system, and help with lubricating the mouth and throat aiding the digestion process when chewing food.
Food manufacturers take advantage of this natural occurrence and go to great lengths to find the perfect blend of salt, sugar, fat, and additional flavorings to excite your brain’s reward center and taste buds thereby assuring you’ll eat more. With processed foods these factors are some of the reasons why processed foods can be so addicting such as:
• Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that quickly melt in your mouth trick your brain into thinking you’re not eating as much food as you really are, despite the fact you’re stuffing in plenty of calories. A prime example of a snack food
that has perfected this is Cheetos
• Dynamic contrast. This is when a combination of contrasting sensations produces pleasurable sensations, such as biting through a crunchy chocolate shell, followed by a soft, creamy center filling
• Sensory specific response. Repetitive flavors, or flavor overload, tend to lead to decreased sensations of pleasure. In short, you “get tired” of eating the same flavor again and again. Your palate can even tire of a flavor within minutes. Processed food manufacturers circumvent this by creating more complex flavor and sensory profiles.
• Salivation response, which boosts taste and feelings of pleasure. Examples of foods and/or ingredients that promote salivation include butter, chocolate, ice cream, and mayonnaise
• Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. This is accomplished by combining the ideal ratio of calories to prevent satiety signals to go off
Eating food has become a lost art form, and what I mean by that is we don’t eat because we have the need to, we eat because we want to. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although with all the addicting chemicals put into our food, it’s hard to stop eating. A patient of ours once said, “We live to eat, and we forgot how to eat to live.” People are eating too fast, and not thoroughly chewing their food, which results in huge chunks of half digested food going into your stomach and making your body work twice as hard to digest it. Chewing your food 15-20 times and giving yourself time to eat and enjoy food will benefit you in the long run.
As the holiday season continues, it’s key to keep in mind that, winter is a time for rest and relaxation, and what is a better way to do that than to get together, eat good food, and surround yourself with loved ones, who will also get the pleasure of enjoying great food with you!
I challenge you this season, to make a whole holiday meal plan from scratch. Going to a farm and getting to talk with the people who grew the food was very educating and they also had so many tips on recipes, how to potentially grow my own food, and much more. Your kids would love it too! Helping support your local farmers is much more rewarding than buying something from the store. Do your taste buds a favor this year and treat it to some really good wholesome food.