Have you ever heard someone say a meal was “made with love”? Some food just tastes better when its made by someone who loves you, someone who enjoys cooking and painstakingly prepares meals for their loved ones.
I feel this happens most often when you eat a delicious meal prepared by someone who as been cooking for decades… you ask for the recipe … you attempt to replicate said recipe and you simply can’t turnout quite as good a meal. Love is the secret ingredient, the umami if you will, that cannot be bottled and sold.
While I am a proud southerner who is even prouder of good southern cooking, I didn’t grow up in the kitchen under the watchful eye of my culinarily astute mother or grandmother. In fact, my college roommates can tell you stories of my attempting to bake blueberry muffins in the microwave and actually COOKING the oatmeal that goes into chocolate no-bake cookies.
I didn’t start cooking for real until I was 28 and just married. I had NO IDEA what I was doing. The first few meals, while made with loving intentions, were not yet made with love. Just ask my husband. Some dinners were plan inedible. But I was motivated by all the shiny new kitchen accessories we received off our wedding registry so I kept at it and eventually discovered the Food Network.
I have since proudly proclaimed that Rachael Ray taught me how to cook, thanks to 30 Minute Meals! I learned to read a recipe and watched masters of the trade prepare easy meals on TV until I finally started to get the hang of it. Seven years later, I can prepare meals from memory and tweak recipes to taste.
But none of this really taught me how to Cook with Love. I first began to realize that preparing food for people you care about is different than preparing food for “a living” when I helped a friend cater a rehearsal dinner for clients I didn’t know from Adam. Don’t get me wrong, the food was excellent and the clients were heartily satisfied, but as for me, my heart wasn’t in it. And I could tell a difference in the food. It just wasn’t the same as when I prepared a spread for a dear friend’s bridal shower, a baby shower, or my husband’s master’s degree celebration.
I finally understood what it means to Cook with Love when I began preparing my baby’s first meals. It was just avocado, tenderly mashed and pressed through a wire mesh strainer, mixed with a little bit of water, and she LOVED it. Avocado is still her favorite food!
Then we moved on to sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots, roasted at 400 degrees on a silpat with about 8 oz of water on the cookie tray. An hour later, I had to stop myself from gobbling up the caramelized goodness. Puree that goodness with a little water or apple juice, freeze in ice cube trays, and you’ve got food for a month to six weeks.
My baby likes her food smooth; so we bake, boil and steam things a little longer than called for and we use a food processor to make sure we get all the lumps out. Those first few batches I even pushed through that same wire mesh strainer I use for the avocados — just to ensure the texture was right. That, my friends, is cooking with love.
One day, I was on-the-go and ran out of food for LK so I fed her store bought baby food. I gave her sweet potatoes and carrots, and she wanted NOTHING to do with them! It wasn’t made with love and she could taste the difference!
May I say here, that there is nothing wrong with store bought baby food and I am positive choosing to use store bought baby food has nothing to do with how much you love your baby. I am a fearless formula feeder so I pass NO judgement here. As a new mom I have come to realize that we all have our specialties… some moms cloth diaper, some moms sew curtains, and others make hair bows and their own birth announcements. I do none of those things, but I do I make food, as a natural outpouring of how I demonstrate love to others.
Gary Chapman says that there are Five Love Languages, but I say there are Six:
Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Gift Giving and the sixth: Cooking (or baking if that’s your thing).
If you want to learn how to make baby food, its super easy. I use the books Super Baby Food and Baby Love by Chef Geoff & his wife Nora O’Donnell, a local chef and TV news reporter here in the DC area. I freeze in regular ole xoxo ice cube trays and prefer using my cuisinart food processor over any of the fancy new fangled baby food makers — you don’t need ’em! A blender or food processor will work just fine. And if your baby is picky like mine, be sure to get the wire mesh strainer!