You know that deep love of cooking that drives people onto shows like Master Chef or even just to their kitchen to make 3 hour long chilli? Yeah, I don’t have that. I’m a decent cook. I make a mean salad and can whip up healthy, homemade dinners in, oh, 20 minutes, but I’ve always left the heavy-lifting to my man. He gets off on the playing with his food. And when we cook together it’s almost always a party. There’s music blasting, wine pouring, cursing, dancing and produce flying (if we had a cooking show it would have to be called “Explosive Chefs!” either that or “What’s Rotting Tonight? Tune in as we come up with creative ways to cook up food on the verge of going bad!”). We always cook as a team, but this fall, when he was working north of the city, clocking 15 hour days, home weary and bedraggled by 9pm or later, I took on the supporting role of having dinners ready every night. No biggy, I thought. My mom did it for us every day as kids. Then, naturally, he got cranky and tired. And I got cranky and tired and coming up with vegetarian meals that would keep an omnivore foodie smiling 5 nights a week started to feel exhausting. How did my mom do it? I was running out of inspiration quick and the more tired we grew, the less love I had for cooking.
I almost threw in the apron until I walked by Book City and it hit me. There was only one thing that could save my relationship. A cookbook. Moments later, I found myself squatting in the aisle, furtively flipping through book after book rammed with glossy food porn. My heart fluttered and stomach rumbled. I was seduced and ended up grabbing the prettiest, simplest vegetarian cookbook I could find. The Forest Feast, by NYC food photographer turned country cabin-dwelling chef, Erin Gleeson. I ran home and started chopping. As I chopped, strained, whisked, baked and stirred, I felt like the Grinch at the very end of the Christmas special, when his heart starts to grow three sizes with every gift he gives. I got so into it, I was making dish after dish after dish (you can see how my Ecoholic cookbook guide was born) and amidst the chaos and flying food, I found it. The joy of cooking! Now I can’t stop. Seriously, it’s like invasion of the body snatchers over here. Though in truth, I’ve realized if you lean in and put more love into it, all good things flow. It’s true in life and it’s also, it turns out, true for cooking. It’s kind of like that old Mexican movie, Like Water for Chocolate. Loving the people you’re cooking for and the tactility of the food as you prep it, pondering the pretty mind-blowing birth of your kale or garlic when it popped out of the earth, tuning into all your senses and savouring it all with some mindful chopping and stirring. The gift of food is a pretty joyous one to share, and the love and joy that goes into is crazy contagious.
With all the cooking going on over here, I figured I might as well do some cookbook reviews for my NOW column. So I did. You’ll find my reviews for over a half dozen cookbooks here, rated on their planet-, body- and taste bud-friendliness. I also did an accompanying column on the how mindful eating can save the planet (that’s a bold promise, I know). Check ‘em out. And happy cooking!