Life Lessons From The Kitchen

cooking
Clem Onojeghuo

Support/love/care doesn’t always come in the most obvious or traditional forms – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Case in point: my parents don’t always eat (by which I mean actually eat it as a meal) what I make, but never once has Mum told me not to disturb her when I ask for ideas on how to plate the dishes, nor has Dad ever scolded me for ruining what would otherwise have been his traditional tomato-gravy chicken (which is so good!) because I decided to experiment.

Some things just aren’t to be cooked, even if it doesn’t seem anything could go awry. I have one word for this: avocado. Yes, it brings to the table the same texture and creaminess that mashed banana or squash does, but unlike the others, avocado becomes so nastily bitter when cooked! I like to think the same applies to people – for one, heat (or pressure) can change them in ways you wouldn’t expect. And sometimes, if you want to keep them around, you’re only going to be able to do that by not trying to change them.

Just because you can hack something, doesn’t mean you should.

Did you know that you can make custom, healthy peanut butter by blending, blending, blending roasted peanuts? The custom part coming in because you can add cocoa/honey/whatever makes you happy to the mixture – not that that’s the point. The point is, while it’s tempting to always make my own, sometimes I don’t need as much as I’d have to make. So I do the practical thing and buy some. Sometimes.

‘Sometimes’ actually being the key word – in other situations, you’ve got to wave goodbye to practicality to be able to embrace that little feeling called ‘satisfaction’.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a situation where I’m able to ask the house help to chop up onion and bell peppers and garlic – and when I step into the kitchen, things are obviously much faster. But it takes away from the authenticity of the experience, too. There’s times I’ve taken to chopping up everything in my way the vegetables I want to use – and even if it’s been messier and more time consuming, there’s an immense satisfaction in saying that I truly did everything from scratch. It’s the same with anything else – there’s just no substitute for hard work to feel truly accomplished.

There’s no winning with some people and certain situations, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to accept it.

If I were ambitious enough, I’d be the founder of the ‘You Can Never Have Too Much Cinnamon’ club…after being disowned by my parents for harboring such deviant beliefs. They will not eat more than a teaspoonful if they suspect there’s cinnamon in my cooking! Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Along those lines, it’s also helpful to remember that people won’t necessarily want something just because it’s good for them or because you mean well. And again, you just have to accept it.

Fact: Cinnamon is renowned for its blood glucose stabilizing/lowering effects… Too much of a good thing is also evil – variety (balance) is the key. My sweet tooth has often stirred me towards healthy desserts and baked goods – but there have been days when I question what possessed me to try two types of pancakes, cookies and brownies within the span of the same week. Even if they’re all for different days, the adage proves itself: familiarity breeds contempt. All your friends can’t be pastries. Mix things up.

There’s only so much you can fake and substitute out – at one point, you either run out of options, or you get caught.

Fun cooking tip for the day: when you want to cut down on sugar in, say, fruit cake, you can use mashed banana as a substitute. Applesauce can sub out for butter, and both reduce the requirement for oil, too. But if you want to try to make an entirely healthy cake, you’re just going to end up with flour and fruit. In which case you’re better off eating fruit salad. TC mark

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