Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I'm the cook in my house, so I decide what most of the meals will be. Not that my husband and daughter don't sometimes make other things, but I only buy and serve healthy foods, and they know if they want something pre-packaged or sugary they have to buy it themselves. Maybe that sounds unkind or too strict, but I decided four years ago that I wanted to get healthy and lose weight. Making food decisions based on my own needs was the only way I felt I could do it.

It's time consuming putting together healthy meals from scratch, but there's nothing I feel is more important. If others aren't interested in eating healthy, that can't be my problem. That's my attitude. But it hasn't always been.

When I was growing up it was my parents, of course, who determined what I should eat. My mother had a basic repertoire of meals that followed the familiar pattern of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. There were never two starches. There were never two vegetables unless you consider Birdseye mixed vegetables to be more than one vegetable. And there was just one type of meat unless it was a bar-b-que. Then there were hamburgers AND hotdogs (woot woot).  My mother frowned on people who put bread on the table every night (not just on Thanksgiving) or served corn and potatoes on the same plate. Didn't they know those are both starches?

I left for college (Purdue) and was at the mercy of the dorm kitchen. That was the 70's and soy meats were being developed (yuk!) I tried to remember what my mom said about starches, but at college it's just hard not to have three in each meal.

Then marriage. My first husband loved to cook. (He loved to cook more than he loved me.) Every night he would come home and go right to work cooking us a gourmet meal. Never mind that I had already made dinner for the kids and eaten all their leftovers. But not to hurt his feelings, and because his cooking was really good, I ate everything he made.

My second husband and I ran a business together and we took turns coming in early and preparing meals for our blended family -- six kids when they were all there. We were always trying to please everyone. For years the shopping and cooking was anything but my idea...

When I was in my mid-40's we started living part-time in a house in Mexico. Everywhere there were delicious and cheap meals to be bought, so we ate our main meal of the day, and sometimes two meals, out. We didn't even own an oven, just a two burner stove that sat on the counter.

At some point in my 40's, I started to gain weight that I couldn't take off using my old stand-by methods of cutting out desserts, eating more salads, and leaving one piece of bread off my sandwiches. Then in my 50's I got pretty alarmed when I looked in the mirror and saw my mother looking back at me. My mother, who had gotten quite heavy, developed high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer and died at age 60. Also alarming was that our youngest child was getting chubby. What the heck? So I decided I better take cooking into my own hands. A lot of what happened next is represented in this blog.

Since I made that decision to start cooking, I've become the kind of cook I always admired: Someone who is always thinking about the next meal, who shops often and buys fresh ingredients, someone who makes almost everything without looking at a recipe, someone who would rather eat at home than at most restaurants. Someone who is not overweight! I'm not saying I'm Alice Waters. But I aspire to be.

Aside: A couple of years ago, my oldest son was managing a fitness center. They were kicking off a new Wellness Program that began with a week-long cleanse the details of which I don't quite remember but it involved a LOT of vegetables and NO MEAT. It was part of his job to participate. All the enrollees in the program met daily to provide support to each other and ask any questions of the program leader. My son got particularly annoyed with one middle-aged woman who kept asking what type of sandwich meat could a person eat if they HAD to choose a sandwich meat. When reminded that no meats were permitted on the cleanse, she said she understood that, but what if she REALLY NEEDED TO BUY a sandwich meat, which one would be recommended...

My son said to me in frustration, "Ma, what kind of person NEEDS to buy a sandwich meat!?" At this point he was 27, living on his own, making his own healthy meals to take to work every day, and I just had to laugh. I used to be that woman -- someone trying to please her family, joining a Wellness Program but still making food decisions based on the needs/wants/demands of others (including my oldest son's).

What I'm trying to say, and what I truly believe is: to be healthy, one really needs to make personal food decisions and rule their own kitchens.

How we decide what to eat:
It's on a menu
Our mom tells us to
To stimulate our brains
To help us exercise
To help us recover from exercising
It's what everyone else is eating
It's in front of us
It's quick
It's sweet
It's sugar-free
It's salty
It's low-sodium
The government's guidelines
It's NEW
It's "good for you"
It's got chocolate on it
It's got chocolate in it
It's got fiber
It's organic
It's non-GMO
It's in a diet book
It's in a different diet book
It's polite to take some
It's vegetarian
The kids wanted it
The spouse wanted it
It looked good on TV
It looks good in a picture
It's filling
It's not filling
It's easy
Our doctor told us to


Related Article: Are Eating Habits Socially Transmitted?

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