You know that love of cooking, that deep passion for creating that drives people onto shows like Master Chef or even just to their kitchen to make 3 hour long chilli? Yeah, I don’t have that. I’m a decent cook. I make a mean salad and can whip up healthy, homemade dinners in, oh, 20 minutes, but I’ve always left the heavy-lifting to my man. He gets off on the playing with his food. And when we cook together it’s almost always a party. There’s music blasting, wine pouring, cursing, dancing and produce flying (if we had a cooking show it would no doubt be called “Explosive Chefs!” either that or “What’s Rotting Tonight? Tune in as we come up with creative ways to cook up food on the verge of going bad!“). This fall, when he was working north of the city, clocking 15 hour days, home weary and bedraggled by 9pm or later, I took on the supporting role of having dinners ready every night. No biggy, I thought. My mom did it for us every day as kids. Until coming up with vegetarian meals that would keep an omnivore foodie smiling 5 nights a week started to feel exhausting.We both grew tired and grumpy pretty quick. I started feeling like a cooped up 1950s housewife stuck in a the kitchen with zero inspiration and mounting resentment.
I almost threw in the apron until I walked by Book City and it hit me. There was only one thing that could save my relationship. A cookbook. Moments later, I found myself squatting in the aisle, furtively flipping through book after book rammed with glossy food porn. My heart fluttered and stomach rumbled. I was seduced and ended up grabbing the prettiest, simplest vegetarian cookbook I could find. Forest Feast, by NYC food photographer turned country cabin-dwelling chef, Erin Gleeson. I ran home and started chopping. As I chopped, strained, whisked, baked and stirred, I felt like the Grinch at the very end of the Christmas special, when his heart starts to grow 10 sizes with every gift he gives. I got so into it, I was making dish after dish after dish (you can see how my Ecoholic cookbook guide was born) and amidst the chaos and flying food, I found it. The joy of cooking! Now I can’t stop. Seriously, even on days where I’ve been hacking sick and exhausted on the couch and ready to order takeout, I got off my ass and made soup from scratch with a smile on my face. What? It’s like invasion of the body snatchers over here. Though in truth, I’ve realized if you lean in and put more love into it, all good things flow. Kind of like that old Mexican movie, Like Water for Chocolate. Loving the tactility of the food as you prep it, pondering the pretty mind-blowing birth of your kale or garlic when it popped out of the earth, tuning into all your senses and just savouring the small things. That’s all love and it’s contagious. Plus the gift of food is a pretty joyous one to share, even if it’s just with yourself when you’re feeling run down and need a tasty, nutrient-packed boost.
With all the cooking going on over here, I figured I might as well do some cookbook reviews for my NOW column. So I did. You’ll find my reviews for over a half dozen cookbooks here, rated on their planet-, body and taste bud-friendliness. I also did an accompanying column on the how mindful eating can save the planet (that’s a bold promise, I know). Check ‘em out. And happy cooking!