Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


How I Became an Unprofessional Cook


Food is love. A different kind of love than being a mom, but a true love no less.

Few things are purer than carefully selecting fresh ingredients to slice and dice, stir ,and sauté in order to make a home-cooked meal.

Both the preparation of food and the eating of it are good for the soul.

Truth is, I didn’t always cook.

For many years I was the microwave-meal gal. I would hastily rip open the cardboard box, tear off the plastic wrap, and zap the solid mass of unappetizing food until it was mushy enough to eat. 

Frozen, prepared cuisine was an easy (albeit unhealthy) solution for eating at the office. 

My co-workers and I ate with our faces buried in computer screens, barely registering what we were forking into our mouths and deriving little pleasure from it.

It was this lack of pleasure that led me to become my own personal chef. Well that and a new boss. She was a tyrannical bully who was eventually fired, but not before she inspired a mass exodus of staff. I too decided to leave my once beloved job in search of something better. You guessed it — pleasure.

This journey took me to South Africa. It was there among rolling landscapes and giraffes lazily grazing on lush green leaves that I experienced the power of food for the first time in years.

The dishes I experienced were mouthwatering, some fuss-free and eaten on the beach, others more complex and made with creative mixtures of herbs and spices. All of them were eaten slowly. Until that trip, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the ritual of sitting down to enjoy a meal.

And there it was — uncomplicated pleasure.

In South Africa, locals say pleasure daily. This scrumptious word is a shortform of, ‘my pleasure,’ or you’re welcome, and it is said with a singsong chime that is lovely to the ears.

The pleasure I experienced there left such an imprint on me that when I arrived home it lingered. Whenever someone said thank-you, I’d think, ‘pleasure!’

It also left me hungry for more. Quite suddenly, I found myself cooking from scratch. I was creating feasts of spicy curries, pastas and gourmet brunches.

They were all made with love.

Looking back I realize I was feeding my body and soul, while simultaneously concocting a delicious recipe for life which called for the simplest of ingredients — to slow down and revel in the pleasure of good, healthy meals. 

I tell you, once you’ve done that, there really is no turning back: Rushing through a five-minute meal will no longer do. 

After all, is there really any pleasure in that?