You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.
It is no secret that I have had multiple eating disorders over the years, but the thing that has lingered after most of the symptoms have departed is a really fucked up relationship with food. I’m certain that being a Chef and a Nutritionist don’t exactly help…
But yet I have this deeply ingrained passion for food. I don’t just love it, I am wholeheartedly obsessed with everything about it. It is my hobby, my career, and the fire that fuels my desire to get out of bed each and every single day. And yet, it is also the reason why some days I don’t want to leave my bed.
I could tell you how many calories are in almost every single food. I can tell you the healthiest foods to eat for longevity, the worst junk to put in your body, and a slew of science based nutrition opinions. I can tell you that a smaller plate will undoubtedly help you eat less, as will using chopsticks. I can tell you that a portion of fat is approximately the size of the tip of your thumb, and that cheese really counts as a fatty condiment, not a protein. I can prove to you that the diet you are following will fail, eventually. I can tell you what supplements to take, and which to skip. I can tell you that I truly believe that we need to, “…Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” But what I can’t do? I cannot eat a meal without thinking of every damn diet tip, calorie, food rule and macro-nutrient I am ingesting. I can’t eat a meal without thinking about how other people just naturally know when to eat, and when to stop. Or how I should be adding more green vegetables to each meal. Or how much water I am consuming that might affect my digestion later, and am I chewing enough times? I cannot eat a meal without having a thousand voices in my head chattering incessantly about every damn thing you couldn’t possibly imagine.
Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.
I have made it my mission to ‘recover’ from this disordered relationship with food on many occasions, fluctuating from ‘lifestyle’ to ‘lifestyle’, but never quite finding the perfect fit. Always having a looming feeling of longing for ‘normal’ (whatever that may truly be). I swung manically from one side of the pendulum to the other, hopelessly seeking balance. But all along in the background, I remembered why I love cooking.
The first time I enjoyed birthday cake in nearly a decade came in the form of a yellow butter cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Julia Child’s recipe, of course, and a recipe I remember sitting on the counter ‘helping’ my babysitter to make for my mother’s birthday. I remember the feel of the candy letters (H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y) in my hands, and the intoxicating smell of the chocolate frosting. I remember seeing the brilliant yellow color of the cake. This was one of the best birthday cakes I have ever had. And the only reason I took the time to make it for myself is because I remember an interview with Julia Child where she highlighted the importance of cake at a birthday party. I had decided, in that moment, to challenge one of the many food rules rattling around in my brain.
I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.
Unlike Julia Child, I have spent half of my lifetime in kitchens (both professional and home). It is my passion, even if it may have initially been fueled by my obsession with food. I believe I can rightfully say I was 30 when I started eating; up until then, I just cooked. I have eaten many meals over the years, but I hardly remember a time when I didn’t have to hear the endless bantering in my brain. Sometimes I find myself eating, and actually enjoying food, but I cannot remember ever enjoying something as much as Julia enjoys Sole Meuniere. I also have found myself munching through meals that I would almost never say ‘yes’ to. I think it may all just be part of the healing process.
If everything doesn’t happen quite the way you’d like, it doesn’t make too much difference, because you can fix it.
On August 26th, I will have been in (and out and somewhere in between) recovery for 10 years. I still have absolutely no idea what I am doing, and I am not sure I ever really will. But I do know that as I turn through the pages of Julia Child’s memoir, I am more inspired than ever to keep working on healing my relationship with food, and with life.
People who love to eat are always the best people.
I am not and was never interested in eating processed junk, and I think Julia would passionately agree. But I am interested in learning how to enjoy my life. And I think one of the best ways to do this is to eat really good food with really good people. So while I continue to stumble along this journey, I take great comfort in knowing that the words of Julia Child ignite a different passion in me. Not simply to cook or to eat good food – but to find that undeniable joie de vivre which Julia fearlessly plunged into every aspect of her life. After all, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.”