You all know I love being in the kitchen. And it’s so fun to hear stories from others and their journey with cooking and how being in the kitchen has affected their lives. Today, I have a guest post from Carmela at The Well Seasoned Mama about how her relationships and experiences in the kitchen have changed through the different stages of her life.
1. Daughter, Sister, Aunt:
My home growing up in Texas was always FULL of food, thanks to my Italian American mother who grew up in Long Island, New York, and due to the many mouths to feed in our home! Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, I remember we had HUGE grocery carts full of food, usually more than one overflowing grocery cart each time we did “big shopping” as my mom called it, but it all got eaten and never went to waste! I grew up with 3 brothers and 2 sisters, and for a time my nieces and sister-in-law were living with us as well…11 people total living in our house at one time when I was about 11-13 years of age.
Some girls may have found that difficult at that age, but I thrived on my relationships with my family, and loved all the conversations, fun, and helping out with my little nieces. I usually filled the role of the peace-maker as the middle girl and loved to try to keep everybody happy with board games or imaginative activities outside in our year-round warm Texas sun. I remember loving rocking my baby nieces to sleep in the big rocking chair, or walking them to sleep some nights, and helping change their diapers and entertain them during the day!
I am actually an introvert, and also needed my time to myself, so I would wait for all my family to go to bed, and then turn on my bed-stand light and read all my favourite classic novels, historical fiction, and fantasy into the wee hours, and then wake up early to read some more before everyone woke up! I didn’t want to waste my time during the day reading, though, I wanted to spend my daytime hours with my family whom I held so dear. Of course, we all chipped in to help with the laundry, the cleaning, and the cooking, too.
I loved cooking because everyone always loved and devoured whatever it was I made, no matter how much it lacked in skill! I remember making chocolate chip cookies and forgetting to put the chocolate chips in…and confusing garlic and onion in recipes, not being able to remember which was which! My parents and brothers and sisters were always so grateful and kind, no matter what the outcome was! And our fondest memories were made sitting around the table together, laughing at the littlest babies/toddlers and their anecdotes, and talking about anything and everything.
I loved baking with my mom and sisters, especially getting ready for movie nights together. My brother, Matthew, who actually died suddenly in his early twenties, went to culinary school, so he shared with us all that he learned. I remember him teaching me how to make a roux and a white sauce, and how to make meringue, and all sorts of things. His passion for food and cooking, which he got from my mom, always stuck with me.
In my early twenties, I met my now husband, who actually grew up in a small town in the North of Ireland. We had a long-distance relationship over a few years, and I eventually moved over to Dublin (where he was studying and working) when it looked like things were getting serious and we were going to get married. I remember trying to cook for him for the first few times…and I really disappointed him!
His mom spent time in France and learned from the best how to cook to a higher standard than I was familiar with. So cooking became a bit less enjoyable for me, with a lot more criticism than I was used to, albeit constructive criticism! But I didn’t give up and tried my best to learn his favorite recipes, and experiment with new ones. I took a cooking course with him at the Dublin Cookery School, to learn some basic skills in a course called “cooking for friends,” and this also helped me to learn some more classic techniques.
Over time, I grew to enjoy cooking again, just because it was something I liked to do, despite the lack of positive feedback and appreciation I was used to receiving in my family of origin! I loved that whenever I cooked, even though my husband might not have been as impressed, it always drew all our single friends to our home, and gave them an excuse to come hang out with us! We had many good memories in our first years of marriage with our single friends over meals I had made, however lacking in finesse they may have been!
We now have four, soon to be five, children 6 years of age and younger. In recent years, I have learned to try my best to cook in a way that my husband will enjoy, because I know how much he loves to eat (good food is a real passion for him), but I also have accepted the fact that I’m not always going to impress him with my cooking and that’s ok!
I take his constructive criticism on the chin and try my best to learn from my mistakes and do better the next time. But most of all, more than producing amazing meals and chef-quality food, I want to allow my hard work in the kitchen to create happy memories of cooking or baking together, and eating together, for all of us. Having good quality food helps, of course, but it doesn’t always work out that way, and the show must go on!
So I don’t stress so much about how the food turns out, or whether everyone likes it or not, and try my best to BE A HAPPY, RELAXED WIFE AND MOM who creates a PEACEFUL, HAPPY, AT EASE ATMOSPHERE AROUND HER and not a perfectionist! Being myself, and happy, is much more important to me, and to my husband and kids, too, than having amazing food on the table!
So that is my journey with food and cooking over the years! If you would like to see some of my recipes and read my other mom life tips and anecdotes for all of us average moms who are just trying to give our families the best, tastiest, nutritious food possible, but without sacrificing our own sanity or losing our happiness and the carefree joie de vivre we used to have as single women, check out my blog www.the-well-seasoned-mama.com. You will also hear more about the 6 years I spent living in Ireland, and 3 months we spent living in Sicily with our 2 young children. You can also follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewellseasonedmama/ and Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/carmelamom/boards/ if you wish!
A big thank you to Stephanie for sharing my story on her lovely blog! It’s been an honor to share my cooking story with her followers! Best wishes, Carmela