Thursday, August 4, 2016

Choosing & Distorting Food: Confidence in the Kitchen

It's been a long time since I've written, and part of the reason is because while I'm interested in relaying tried-and-true recipes I'm also currently more interested in other things. Like my laundry, my cat, sleep, applying myself fully when it comes to work, applying myself fully in my romantic relationship, keeping in contact with friends and family, contemplating my personal and professional future, etc. Essentially: these days I'm most interested in taking care of myself and making room for growth. Boring as hell, I know, but it's fucking taken a lot for me to get to this point.

Food has been my go-to for comfort for a long time, which is not all bad. As I have written about before, I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder at seventeen and was later re-diagnosed at twenty-two by another therapist with comorbid bulimia nervosa and post-traumatic stress disorder. I am now twenty-seven. Needless to say, I have a long push-and-pull history with food - but so do many others. Somehow I have been able to recover from a life where food was something to be hidden and ashamed of. By working on myself consistently and feeding on the confidence and support of those around me, both friends and strangers, I have been able to slowly shift from distorting food into something dangerous to choosing food as a vehicle to both physically and mentally nourish myself.

This sounds arbitrary for its overuse, but finally-really choosing recovery after so many years is what made all the difference. Various factors contributed to my successful recovery, the most notable being:  1) I reconnected with the love of my life (who I am now very recently married to) and 2) I received a large monetary settlement related to the event that caused my PTSD and thus was able to pay off my student loan debt, move to Portland, and go to culinary school. If one or both of those things (having my partner's support &/or being financially stable) had not happened, I could have very well stayed holed-up in my small town bedroom and remained quite sick. Ugly yet somehow fortunate things have happened in my life, but I have landed in a city I love with an apartment I love shared with a person I love creating food that I love...and it's so surreal. But don't think it didn't take a million tears, certain privileges, and hard work to get here.

Trading shame for pride is a difficult goal for anyone to aspire to.  Choosing food as a means of expression & nourishment instead of distorting food into some kind of symbolic enemy has made all the difference; I have finally chosen to embrace what excites me most & I feel much healthier & happier because of it.

Books, articles, entire blogs, songs, and probably all other avenues of media are often dedicated to the intersection of confidence and the body, but where can one explore confidence as it relates to food that isn't tied to 'clean eating', dieting, or fitness? I personally look to cookbooks, cooking-related television, food writing, vegan blogs, etc., & try my best to find confident, mentally healthy, kind people who are excited to be in the kitchen. Often major professional cooking outlets are dominated by white men: see this resource guide, the list of Michelin starred chefs, James Beard award winners, Food & Wine's featured chefs, etc. Reviewing this proof that a person has to actively search to find a successful, confident, non-white, non-cisgendered-male who harbors a truly positive relationship with's no wonder that so many females and non-conforming individuals have a tough time being confident and choosing to nourish their bodies.

I am nearing a small yet important crossroads in my career. I'm looking for a new job, a new project, something that challenges me to grow and learn as a person who prefers to spend an inordinate amount of time elbow-deep in flour. I love the bakery I currently work for; it's full of kind and extraordinary people who are passionate about so many different things. However, I need to take care of myself. I know that taking care of myself means I need to expose myself to new methods & new chefs. I need to be excited again, to fall headfirst into the unknown. I owe it to myself to take chances & pursue terrifying yet thrilling opportunities. I want to increase my confidence by further developing my skills in the kitchen. I owe it to myself to work hard & aspire to be 'great', whatever that means.

This is a difficult process.  It's tough for me to look to myself, identify what I honestly want, decide that I deserve it, believe that I deserve it, & convince other people that I can absolutely deliver what it is they're looking for. The beautiful thing is: only good can come of this. I have to trust that whatever extreme effort I put out into the world, the world will return in kind.

So here's to chasing dreams.