“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” -Virginia Woolf

I am notorious for eating out for most of my meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some healthy and from Earth Fare or Whole Foods other times it’s the Chick-Fil-A drive thu. I do try to change up what I get at CFA. Sometimes because the backed-up drive thru and having to order before I can see a menu stresses me out to the point of just shouting out the first entree I can think of. Other times it’s because I’m afraid they will start to recognize me and my “usual”.

My lack of cooking skills has even gone as far as pretending to cook for someone, but it was really a meal from Earth Fare that I put into my own pots and pans to make it seem as though I’m a chef (still sorry for not giving you that “super secret” recipe you asked for). I thought I hated cooking. I thought I was bad at cooking.

Except for breakfast. I can make a mean breakfast sandwich. This perfection has come from the mere fact that it was the only thing I knew how to whip together.

I always thought I didn’t know how to cook and the only things I knew to make were ones that only needed to be microwaved in under 60 seconds. I don’t think we’ve ever used the oven in our house and I’m not even sure if it works. When I do eat at home it consists of snack foods and my parents compare it to how a child would eat. Normally healthy, but your basic banana and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, mixed nuts, etc. I love smoothies but never take the time to cut up fresh fruit. It’s always canned or in the freezer.

As a twenty-two year old, I can read. I can read and follow a recipe. Cooking isn’t hard to do if you’re following a recipe. The steps are laid out for you. And numbered. So if you can count and you can read, you can cook. I say that, exclusively, because I have a few friends who are actually fantastic at cooking. I’m not talking about making ramen noodles or following steps, but they actually take fresh food and create flavors and pairings I never would have thought of. That kind of cooking is not what we are really talking about today. Today is all about beginner cooking. Cooking 101. Cooking as in “I just figured out how to grill a chicken without it being raw on the inside or burning it”. Kudos to my higher level friends and please, take me under your wing.

Recently, I’ve been on an endeavor to eat more creatively. I’ve started to take the vegetable cans I’ve been saving for an apocalypse and actually cooking with them. I’ve been using the cutting board and spending time chopping my fresh vegetables instead of letting them go bad sitting in my refrigerator or just snacking on them with hummus or ranch. I’ve created real, healthy meals, people. This is big. And you know what I’ve discovered?

I love it.

There’s something special about listening to some music , drinking a glass of wine, and cooking dinner for yourself.

Or cooking for someone else. One of the most satisfying moments I’ve had recently has been to cook dinner for someone and watch them enjoy it. I made a point to write down what I had put together (so I could make it again if it was successful) and actually gave this recipe away. I didn’t have to call the guy at Earth Fare and ask him what was in my dinner, but I knew for myself and it was something I could be proud of.

Something else cooking helped me remember?

It’s so much better for you. Knowing what is going into your food dramatically has helped lower my A1C number (my blood sugar). I’ve created substitutions for myself so I’m not always using butter or drowning my food in various sauces. There are actual ingredients and spices you can use to find these flavors that are significantly better for you.

Of course, Chick-Fil-A sandwhiches with American Cheese and (extra) CFA sauce will always hold a special place in my heart. But my all day, slow cooked, sweet potato crock pot recipe or my stuffed avocado is taking a close second. It also creates leftovers for lunch the next day and less insulin to be measured in a syringe.

Growing into adulthood relies on the small successes. Cooking myself dinner is a victory.