In college, I loved that I had the freedom to eat whatever, whenever, and wherever I wanted. Living in the dorm for the first time, I loved that if I wanted a coke at midnight, I could buy a coke from the vending machine, or if I really wanted to splurge, I could buy a Hershey’s candy bar. I used to walk down the dark hallway, amazed that nobody was there to tell me to go to bed, and I loved hearing the soft clink of my quarters being deposited into those lovely, massive, glowing machines full of sugar and carb loaded treats. When I moved into an apartment with one of my closest friends, I think I ate ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day and beans and rice on flour tortillas topped with sour cream and tomato almost every night. Not to mention, I could eat in front of the TV whenever I wanted. It still doesn’t get much better than that, but after meeting my husband two years after college, I developed a broader appreciation of food.
I have to say the potential for this deeper appreciation of food and mealtimes lay dormant in me for many years. Growing up, my mother cooked amazing meals. Some of my favorites were Tandoori chicken with Mango Lassies, chicken tacos with corn tortillas, her chicken and rice, and Keke Puaa: the last one being a dish she learned to make in Samoa during her years in the Peace Corps. Our house was always full of sizzling sounds of cooking and smells like spicy chili, bread, garlic, bacon, coffee, and many other wonderful smells. In addition, all six of us in my family sat down for meals together, and unless it was a special occasion, we never ate in front of the TV. I remember when we did eat in front of the TV, my parents would make a newspaper table for us on the floor that would crinkle every time we moved. The sound of crinkling newspaper still makes me feel like it is a special occasion.
I dated Ben for years before realizing how lucky I was to be with someone who loved to cook. On the weekends, I used to drive over to his apartment, and in the middle of a Texas summer, he would have the AC on and the windows open. Jazz and smells like those I remembered from when I was younger would be pouring through those windows. He’d have a chilled bottle of chardonnay ready and an appetizer of guacamole or scallops with butter and garlic; it all depended on the meal he was preparing. Back then, I used to stop at Blockbuster and get us a movie to watch while we ate. I’d sit at the table and talk to him while he cooked, and then we would either eat at the table or have our dinner and a movie night. We still try to do that, but it gets more difficult as we get busier and busier.
Monday, he would send me to work with a lunch full of wonderful leftovers. I was working at an elementary school as a teacher’s assistant, so of course, to my pleasure, the teachers always noticed my lunch. I would sit down and open my tupperware container packed with pasta, bread, and asparagus cooked in garlic and butter. The teachers usually assumed that I had made the meal (this was awhile back), and when I corrected them, they would say things like, “you are so lucky to have a man that cooks!” Then they would laugh and add, “I’m lucky if my husband puts his laundry in a pile.” It was all said in fun, but I began to realize how wonderful it is to be with someone in this day and age who loves to cook because it is a labor of love.
So I’m writing this blog to motivate Ben and myself. I love to take photos and write and he loves to cook, and somehow, putting these things in the public arena motivates me, even if nobody is reading it. I think it is important to pursue our passions even when, like most people these days, we have little time.