Spring Awakening.

I stopped cooking for others.

Now for most people, there is a shoulder shrug. But what's odd is that I used to think food is what I wanted to do for my life's path. For goodness sake, I graduated from a culinary school (RIP L'Academie de Cuisine), did some chef-assistant teaching, apprenticed "staged" in DC, and worked in restaurants, bread shops, and gourmet markets in both Brooklyn & NYC. I had a food blog (Shelby's Menu) for around 10 years and I even took an intensive food writing course... but honestly, the food world is hard and the criticism harder. The yelling, the harsh judgment, the endless hours, the emphasis on speed and perfection, the 5 am shifts (3 am wake-ups), the despicably low pay (Good Food Jobs perfectly explains the pay issues within the food industry), the working while everyone else is breaking, the injuries, and the fact that your worth relies on a bite of food... it was not a good fit.

"exhaustion" at L'Academie de Cuisine - a pastry class

Better Culinary Times

after work - market trip in BK circa 2011

There was a season or two where I would wake up at 3 am, be at work on the Upper Eastside of NYC by 4:45 am, work until 5 pm, come home, cook something delicious for Mike (and friends). I would spend my weekday(s) off with my cousin(s) wandering bookstores in search of discounted cookbooks, looking for magical recipes, traveling from Brooklyn to Chinatown to Harlem on a quest for food finds at the markets, and settling home to test out my finds. Or I'd be at home scouring Cook's Illustrated or reading a culinary book (preferably by Ruth Reichl, M.F.K. Fisher, or Edna Lewis) until it was time to cook with Ashley & Mia. We all had jobs that allowed us home during the weekday. And I loved it. I loved it.


Day in and day out being surrounded by French and/or Italian cooking at work - fresh bread, chocolate, souffle, hazelnuts, gelato, macaroons, croissants, pain au chocolate, and cream...lots of creams. And then biking home to enjoy black American home-cooked cuisine... it was Heaven.

Not-So-Great Culinary Times:

But then something happened. I honestly don't know what it was. Maybe it was pregnancy or motherhood? Perhaps it was post-pregnancy snapback culture? Conversely, it could be a mental/emotional reaction...but I stopped cooking for others. I used to explain my apprehension as a form of PTSD... so perhaps I put that out into the world? Claimed it? Regardless, I slowly started losing my passion for cooking, my love for food stayed the same, but with cooking - excitement aroused only once every blue moon.

pre-culinary school, circa 2009

By the time that COVID hit, the amount of cooking increased, while my pleasure in it plunged.


Then I went on a 40 day fast from January 1 until Feb. 13. I prayed for many things, but one was to regain my passion(s). And what do you know? During the fast, all I wanted to do was to eat scrumptiousness made from my hands. And so on Feb 14, I did just that: I cooked, and I cooked. And I didn't stop. My parents came to town, and we cooked and ate incredibly well. Our little family of four even went on a road-trip vacation, where we scoured the local market, bought delicacies, cooked in our hotel room, and ate well on the beach.


Between Mike's new grill enthusiasm, my restoration, and the entry into spring... I feel reinvigorated. Absolutely made anew. "New" because my vision is different. I used to daydream about feeding the masses, maybe creating cookbooks for the world, but this time it is more modest: regained passion and nourishment for loved ones...

ReStoration

circa 2008

Recently, mama Steel came into town for a few weeks. It was so special. We mostly cooked healthy eats, but we also indulged in our market finds, and Mike took a cooking class where she acted as his sous chef...the food was off the charts! It was like a culinary adventure. It was everything that I missed.


There were even a few times throughout her trip, we went out to taste some local cookeries...and can I say, each time (outside of Shake Shack lol) our boys (and the adults) left, and we each remarked on how much more satisfying our homecooked meals were. There is a good chance that outside of an occasional nostalgic Friday pizza, a new discovery, or a rare fancy date, we won't be going out to eat. And for those that have read my writing for a while, this is not new. Pre-kids, I once went nine months without eating out (with a few exceptions).


But, y'all, like Spring, I am full of reawakening and birth...it feels new and yet familiar. And I'm delighted to walk with y'all through this season.


My prayer is that we all unearth ourselves in our new "normal."


Here's to You, Spring.

Shelby

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