This I Believe

Stephanie - Fruit Cove, Florida
Entered on April 19, 2007

Cooking Beyond Food

I believe in cooking. As far back as memory ensnares me, so does the scent of food. My life can be viewed in relation with food – in the ways I have devoured it, served, and fought it. I enjoy preparing food almost as much as I do serving and eating food. Cooking has taught me more about myself and others than I thought possible; cooking I have learned, is love.

In college I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In the space of an afternoon I was forced to change my lifestyle, most importantly my diet. Now, I realize those first few months as a diabetic were the easiest; I was too scared to deviate from the new lifestyle, my friends and family were attentive and encouraging. For the first time in months, I felt fantastic. But I was resentful of the disease, ashamed also. Anything you can do I can do too became my motto and I clung to it, stubbornly calling myself normal. Having gained control, I was determined diabetes would play by my rules. Put simply, I would ignore it. And so I did. I also rediscovered the joy I had always found in cooking. No longer concerned with monitoring every thing I ate, I cooked with abandon, adding full meals into my repertoire along with the cookies and cobblers.

Cooking is a synonym for love. I can reach out and let the warmth of a perfect meal say what I often fail to: I love you. The irony was that as I cooked to express my feelings for others, I ignored myself. Neglectful of the diabetes, I indulged in everything using insulin to curb the inevitable high glucose levels. Those levels rose higher and higher. I lost control. I was frightened, then terrified. I no longer controlled the diabetes, it owned me. I knew that this time, I must truly change if I wished to live; to continue on as I had been would be risking my life.

Once again I faced a total lifestyle change. Looking at all the foods I was denied anew, I raged against the necessary changes, throwing a tantrum that would shame a toddler. My mom slapped me verbally, saying “Look at all you can eat.” Embarrassed I forced myself to examine my behavior. Then it hit me. I am a cook. Surely I can find something that suits me. Flipping through a diabetic cookbook, I settled on a recipe to try that evening: Japanese Steak and Snow Peas. As I sautéed celery and onions I began to feel a glimmer of my old self; no dinner ever tasted better. Cooking I learned, is not necessarily only for others. Cooking is for me as well. Preparing a nutritious meal for me was a way of loving myself, and that was something I had yet to learn. Cooking I know, is love, be it for others or yourself.