My ambivalent relationship with cooking

I had the chance to pick the featured image for the month of February at Red Tent Living. And I knew it needed to be food—rich, decadent, effort-induced food.

Because food, like relationships, and life, and the month of February, is a space of both/and. A space for pleasure, creativity, risk, entertaining, togetherness. A space for numbing, control, violence, isolation. I have tasted all of those feelings while tasting food. I’ve loved food, hated food, explored food, feared food, craved food, stuffed food, measured food. Oh food.

I remember the first time I got really excited about my kitchen and how I would make food in our home…the home I’d have with my husband and our kids.

I was a junior in college, and it was spring break. I was sitting in my friend Libby’s kitchen, overlooking the lush green hills of Northern California. With every fiber of her being, Lib is a foodie. And I loved watching her cook. I loved eating what she created, whether it was tossed together in the moment or crafted over hours. I couldn’t help but ask her where her recipes came from. I couldn’t help but watch her rifle around in her spice rack and open her various canisters, searching for the essentials of whatever we would eat next.

Some kind of hope was birthed in me that week. It was a hope that couldn’t grow in my mother’s kitchen, which was already filled with the nourishing comfort of many childhood flavors.

This was different. Lib’s kitchen left me dreamy about things I could make and dishes I could try…figuring out new things to create that were all mine…coming up with meals that my family would ask for again and again because they tasted so good.

That hope hasn’t left me. I feel it bubble up every time I walk through the grocery store, planning for the coming week. Some days I give it some space and pick some new things to risk cooking with. More often, I find myself thinking I have a lot to juggle and a creative relationship with food might not be for me— there’s a lack of time, there’s limited variety at the grocers I visit, there’s fear that all the effort won’t pay-off in the ways I have dreamt about, there’s frustrations that I need easy food to help soothe. My apron has hung on its hook, mostly unused these last few months.

Which brings us to the girl who picked the image of a rich cake with warm chocolate ganache poured over top for February. That week in California, Lib and I spent an afternoon sipping tea and talking while she baked her chocolate cake to surprise her husband when he got home. She laughed as she talked about how much he loved it and her memories of other times she’d baked that cake and all of the things it had helped them celebrate. It was sweet to hear those stories. It made me want to create moments like that.


And for me, maybe it won’t be with my chocolate cake recipe. And certainly food will at moments, continue to get the best of me.

Still, I’d like food to be a way I tell people on the most ordinary days, you matter to me and I love bringing you joy. I’m not sure what that will look like for me and the people I love, but I don’t want to give up the hope that we’ll get there.

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 25 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart.  Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day.  For now, she shares her thoughts here.