By Lili Prodanova
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Mental Health Problems
All kinds of things happen in the kitchen. Delicious things, creative and colourful things. Disgusting mess and dirt also happen there, behind the door, hidden from the eyes of those who are dining, evaluating and criticizing what has been chopped and cooked.
There is so much that stays a secret to those who aren’t handling the rotten vegetables, chopping the thing in your hand, who do not see all the cuts from the knife meant for meat that for some reason you were using for fruit! Who does that? There is so much that stays a secret for those who only see you serve what has already been prepared; what is served in the open.
Those late nights when you hate what’s on your table or you do not know how to handle it, when even though you know you have been given products of the highest quality, you seem to not be able to make any good use of them. Those times when it’s dark, inside of you, and everything feels like poison.
Just go throw it up. Some do. Eat up emotions, pain, stress. And then go purge. Eating disorders. An epidemic. An epidemic of miscommunicated pain.
Just go swallow it or smoke it. Some do. Just a pill or two. Instead of getting through the pieces of coriander and anxiety one by one. It’s easier, it’s faster. To get to happiness. But it’s a delusion. Drugs. That’s what they do: deceive.
Just go throw your rotten bits away in someone else’s kitchen. Some do. Strong fist. A good kick. In an attempt to shake off your own anger, to refresh the bad taste in your mouth, the inability to make your own dish satisfying, aggressively splash your own piece of s*** (soup) onto them. Savage. They now seem dirtier than you. Violence. That’s what it does – it projects your own mess onto someone else, so that you can feel better than them. I will reveal a secret from another kitchen though – if you squeeze oranges, orange juice comes out. Even if you cover its peel in wasabi, the juice will still be sweet. If someone is dirtier after meeting you, if you are spreading mess…what are you made of?
But could we try a different approach. Just go cut your own veggies. Put your favourite music on and sing while cooking. Only look at another’s kitchen’s in order to learn and to share. Tell them what recipes worked for you. Some do. Some manage to exchange competition, jealousy, pride and ignorance for care, honesty and love. That way cooking your own delicious meals gets so much more delightful. Don’t belittle those who have not reached your level of excellence, but give them a hand. Don’t belittle yourself in comparison to someone else’s excellence but celebrate their success – make a cake for it. And there you are already getting something good out of it.
But that isn’t easy. Reading cookbooks is. Creating what’s on the photo next to recipes rarely works. Well, at least for me. If I open the cookbook… Do I even have a cookbook?
All that mess. Noises of boiling, cutlery falling, water running, all that steam and smoke. It’s so easy to lose perspective. Some do. I do. My kitchen? It’s always on fire! I am not good at cooking so I prepare food raw. Does that count as cooking? So it’s usually me who is burning, not the food. I clarify this because it is probably not a good idea to listen to me. But I am open to hearing more recipes, maybe someone has tried what I haven’t and they can help. Maybe I have tried something you haven’t and I can help. Do you want to cook together? We are, more or less, all just trying to put something nice together and be filled. Filled with joy, peace and love.
Tip 1: My herbs ain’t better than your herbs. And your recipe ain’t better than mine. It’s all just variety. It’s better if we share and combine them than being entitled to who is the best chef.
Tip 2: Listen to some sweet music and dance around. Just be careful not to cut yourself. Cooking in your underwear is acceptable.
Tip 3: Do not compare pizza with cupcakes or kale smoothie with honey and coconut milk (Oh how much I adore this) with cheese pie. Do not compare sushi with fish and chips, or banitsa (Bulgarian temptation) with baklava. They are all saliva-triggering, finger-lickingly delicious. Love them all.
Tip 4: You don’t always need a recipe. Cheese makes everything better though.
Tip 5: Let it burn sometimes. Let it be bitter, too sweet, too salty. As long as it is making you figure out how you like to cook and what you like to eat. Remove it from your diet if it is poisonous, even if it tastes, smells and looks appetizing.
Tip 6: Be aware of what’s on your menu. Including the allergies section. Let the people you are cooking for know about these details. Be aware of your own allergies and what menus you are willing to read and order from.
Tip 7: Consume whatever you are served with all the love you have and take your ego off the table. First, no meal wants to feel avarage and unwanted. Second, you will enjoy your own time more. Gratitude, respect, love.
Tip 8: Forget that you have to cook. Try to mainly enjoy it. Even if it means skipping a few meals – forget what your mom and nana told you – you will be alright, sometimes it is even healthier.
Lili Prodanova was born and raised in Bulgaria but her interest in Japanese culture took her to Leeds where she studied International relations and Japanese. She has experience in project and events management. She is currently a student doing MSc Global Innovation Management. Her interestes include gender relations, equalities and entrereneruship. She enjoys dancing and photography as ways of expressing and exploring humanness.