This is a guest post we did for Matt & Stacy at the Paleo Parents. If you aren’t already aware of the amazing things that they are putting out, go ahead and check out their website, podcast, and books. I’m sure I’m already preaching to the choir here, but if not–go check it out and thank me later.
Quality time is a big part of any relationship–without it, it’s easy for little things to get in the way of the bigger picture and sit under the surface until you end up in a huge fight about not looking both ways before crossing the street (true story). When Heather and I first met, we were both in grad school and working full time. Since, we’ve
managed to move twice and work more than when we were managing school. Working 60+ hours a week each makes it difficult to carve out time with and for each other, especially because my second job occurs on evenings and weekends.
We just celebrated our 3-year anniversary, and I’ve taken time to really reflect on the things that make us work as a team. One of the things that has really helped us grow is our time in the kitchen. We, like others, once made the argument that, “Cooking takes too long–let’s just order in.” I learned the hard way that is hard on both the waist and the wallet, packing on 50+ pounds in the first year we were together. So, about a year and a half ago, I decided to make the switch, and made a little website as an accountability measure. Heather will admit, she was hesitant at first; but she supported me and eventually realized the dietary changes were good for her too (her allergies are more manageable now).
Below is a distillation of some of the life lessons that we’ve learned in the kitchen. Not only do we get to spend time
together, it is making the choice to better our health and wellness, and hopefully reduce stress. Our diet and fitness can only do so much if we’re stressed out of our minds.
Communication. When we first started cooking together, it was blatantly clear that we didn’t understand how to communicate with eachother. Second trips to the grocery store for missed ingredients, burnt food, and tense quips were pretty common. We knew what we were trying to accomplish in general (e.g., food), but we didn’t do a great job of explaining the details. I realized I essentially expected Heather to read my mind, even if she had never seen the recipe. Heather going out to the market for salsa for our weekly chili 15 minutes after we just got back from the store because I forgot to write it down is just one of many examples of miscommunication getting in the way of cooking. (Now, we check our list–even the “what do we want to get done today” lists–twice.) We laugh about it now, and I still lose my temper sometimes; but now, it’s simply because I’m a perfectionist. Our time playing chef and sous chef really helped us figure out how to better communicate both in and outside the kitchen.
Variety is the spice of life. With Heather being born of Depression-era parents, and me just being a creature of habit (read: lazy), we rarely ventured outside our handful of easy, comfort foods. We weren’t picky eaters, but we weren’t adventurous cooks. Her dinners for nearly a year consisted of salad or pasta. Meanwhile, I was addicted to take-out. Since our discovery of paleo/ancestral health, our palates and cooking adventures have exploded: partly out of necessity, and partly out of a desire to keep faithful to this change that made us look and feel better. It turns out Heather loves Brussels sprouts and asparagus. We’ve also figured out that horseradish mustard is a kitchen essential (not to mention bacon!). We also found out we love bison, hasenpfeffer, and chicken feet for stock. We even figured out hot and sour soup! These experiences have made us more adventurous, even going to meet-ups at Matt and Stacy’s that have connected us with great, like-minded friends.
Teamwork. Turning the turkey when we had our families over for a paleo Thanksgiving was super difficult–not only was it our first turkey (and a 20-pound one at that), but it was also the first time that we had both our parents and family members under one roof for more than an hour. I know you’re thinking we’re crazy, and you’re right, but it’s through these projects that we have been able to take on much more than we could alone. Not just that, but we wouldn’t have any great pictures of our making orange-cranberry bread or scallops if either of us had tried to do this alone. Our cooking, recipe crafting, and photo taking require teamwork. We work better together because we cook together.
Living in the moment. We don’t get it right 100% of the time the first (or even second) time around. Baking a juicy, flavorful chicken is super easy–once you’ve figured out the formula. Caramelizing onions is easy–except when it’s not easy. We’ve missed out on making great meals great because we rushed through or fell asleep at the ladle. We all have our version of this story–in cooking and life. Our time in the kitchen has made us more present, and this has paid incredible dividends.
These are just a handful of the things I’m thankful for learning and improving since making our health and cooking a priority. We savor our meals and our time together just a little bit more. Even the tedious things like making the grocery list, prepping meals for the week, and packing lunches (and dinners) are small moments of quality time.
We’re just beginning of our journey, and we know there’s plenty more to learn. I only hope this helps others out there revisit what’s important in life. Ask a loved one to cook with you. The cooking partnership is a pretty fantastic one, and one with real benefits (like a pizza inspired pasta dinner). Not a bad return on investment if you ask me.
Get in there with your loved ones, get your hands dirty, and enrich your health and your life!