Three weeks ago, I was a different person. OK, not really…but kind of.
Before this year, I NEVER COOKED. Never is a strong word, but I would say it’s pretty damn accurate. I’m not exaggerating. I’m talking like 99.9% of all meals I had prepared in my entire life were done via microwave. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed baking…and maybe I’d cook a meal here and there, but it was pretty rare.
For me, cooking was typically reserved for contributing my favorite sides at office potlucks & family holiday feasts. Aside that, either my husband Jason did the cooking, we ordered takeout, or we ate fast-food.
Sadly, the latter two of those habits had become the norm. This dates back to around the time we started having kids. If you look at the shift in our eating habits over the last four years, our physiques certainly tell the tale of that transition.
When 2016 rolled around, I did quite a bit of nostalgic reflection on my childhood. I happily dug into fond memories of eating home-cooked Korean delights, along with many American classics that my mom would whip up every night. I remember eating every last bite of every single meal, and bragging how my mom was the best cook in the world. I recall the proud reputation she garnered among all our teachers, family friends, and entire community for her prized egg rolls.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]I hear time and time again from every parent with a toddler, “You’re not alone! My child is such a picky eater!”[/pullquote]Then I started thinking about our baby who recently starting eating purees. I wondered how I could instill the genuine love of food and flavors my parents did in me & my siblings. That gnawing annoyance of our three year old son’s picky eating habits started to creep in. I’ve sat wondering for three years how to get Gavin to LOVE kimchi and other Korean foods. Although I’ve casually offered it here and there (without any success)…I realized that I hadn’t made enough an effort. We grew up eating these foods every single day, so a few weak attempts wasn’t going to cut it.
What was I doing wrong? I have a passion for eating a variety of food. I adore both classics and ethnic flavors. I’m never afraid to try anything new. Even though Jason is sort of picky about many foods, he has that same adventure for trying new things.
I hear time and time again from every parent with a toddler, “You’re not alone! My child is such a picky eater!”
What am I missing here? How did our parents pull this off?
I made a decision right then-and-there: I would start cooking family dinner at least three times a week.
In the past when I’ve had mini versions of this same epiphany, I tried and failed miserably. This has already occured a handful of times. However; this time, it would be different. This time, I would NOT be deterred.
There were a few key things that I tweaked, and it has made all the difference:
- I will not cave to my toddler! He can either eat what I cook, or he can pass. Those are his only two options.
- I will cook meals outside my husband’s comfort zone, and I don’t care. He, too, can suck it up and deal with it.
- I will half / quarter / cut recipes down to a MUCH smaller scale. If I only make enough for 2 to 3 servings and there isn’t anything to throw out afterwards, then I won’t get discouraged.
- I must make at least one meal for myself every day using leftover fresh ingredients. Get off your ass, cut up, and find simple ways to use the extra stuff leftover from dinners.
- Be realistic! Only plan for three home-cooked dinners a week. If my schedule is crazy and that gets bumped down to two, I can live with that.
- Track & share my experience with family & friends. That will help keep me motivated with some small sense of accountability.
I thought about why I had failed before, and why I wouldn’t let myself this time. I was able to pinpoint and identify my five primary reasons for failure:
I’m a total inexperienced dummy when it comes to the kitchen. That’s no excuse whatsoever, but I think that I’ve hastily and mistakenly let that dissuade me in the past.
This is a huge fault of mine in all aspects of life. I would plan out way too many elaborate dinners for the week. Then life would get crazy, and I would just get so overwhelmed and give up altogether.
- Food waste
A huge point of discouragement for me was the abundance of leftovers that never got eaten & thrown away. Most recipes I found made between 4 to 6 servings, so anything I couldn’t finish myself would all go in the trash.
I would constantly think to myself, “Isn’t it supposed to be less expensive to cook at home?” However, since we were previously eating a lot of cheap fast food and I wasn’t using ingredients wisely; I wasted so much money on fresh ingredient groceries that were only being partially used, then tossed.
- Lack of accomplishment
The feeling of “Why am I spending all this time & money cooking when no one really seems to enjoy it all that much?” would get the better of me.
Well, now that I devised simple solutions to these former problems…new Grace doesn’t give a flying f*%#. New Grace wants results. No more excuses. No bullshit.
I figure…if I enjoy all these meals with gusto and passion, maybe our son will start to pick up on it. Maybe he won’t, but I’ll be damned if I can’t say I didn’t make a valiant effort otherwise. Now is the perfect time to start since our daughter is just starting solid foods and will be eating real people food very soon.
My husband? Well, he’s a trooper. He’ll always eat whatever I make with zero complaints. He always has. In the past, he was always very sweet about eating my cooking and assuring me it was good…even though I could tell he was often left hungry and unsatisfied. He’s pretty set in his food ways (i.e. doesn’t like anything creamy, extra cheesy, overly saucy, rich, prefers mostly lean proteins), so I used to feel a bit limited on what recipes I could try.
Having said that, he’ll never not eat. He’s always happy to try something new. I don’t intend to shift what kinds of foods he loves, but I can easily incorporate foods and flavors I know he enjoys while still cooking meals that will accomplish my goals. Furthermore, we could both stand to lose several pounds; so if we end up eating less because we don’t love some of the meals I attempt, it’s not the end of the world.
I’m a few weeks in and I’d say things are a raging success thus far. My son is starting to eat foods that before he’d never entertain even trying. Yes, he has gone to bed a couple nights without eating…and he survived.
I just need to stick with it and maybe I’ll start to see more of those positive results.