Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Don’t have a niche? Don’t let that stop you.

One of the things that held me back in my early years of cooking was the feeling that I needed to have particular cooking niche.

So many cooks define themselves by the type of cooking they do: indulgent comfort foods, vegetarian, low-fat, semi-homemade, low-carb, gluten-free. In some cases, they have to narrow their focus due to allergies or some other health issue. Makes total sense for them.

However, I felt burdened by deciding on a focus and sticking with it no matter what. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to prepare food in all types of ways that I really started to embrace the joy of cooking.

In 2002, I embarked on a lifestyle change that resulted in me losing over 100 pounds and keeping it off to this day. So, when I really started cooking for myself and then for my new husband, I concentrated on low-calorie and/or “clean” foods. I still cook in that manner, but I’ve expanded beyond it. I cook based on what I’ve got in the pantry, what I feel like eating, who I’m cooking for.

My husband, for instance, abhors most vegetables. Unless they are starchy peas, carrots or corn, he’s not gonna eat ‘em. My French Green Soup will elicit a “blech” and a grimace if I try to serve it to him. He also doesn’t eat chicken, and he doesn’t like most seafood unless it’s fried. That means, I make more standard, “man friendly” fare for him. When I eat those dishes, though, I take a small portion and fill out my plate with lots of veggies.

I’ve also figured out what substitutions will work for him. I can slip pureed veggies into some of his meals, but I can’t serve him a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I can make him a much healthier pepperoni pizza (with light Flat Out flatbread, low-cal sauce, reduced-fat cheese and turkey pepp), but he’s not going to go for pan-fried tofu in place of steak.

When we have visitors or go to parties or celebrate holidays, I like to make indulgent foods like Blondie Truffles or Taquito Casserole, with no substitutions. To maintain my weight and health, I try not to have these items in the house regularly – or in quantity - because I will just scarf ‘em down and regret it later.

My point is that you don’t need to cook in only one way – unless, of course, you want to. Feel free to experiment with all different kinds of cooking and learn what works for you… and when… and for whom. Doing that took a lot of the pressure for me and made being a Late Blooming Chef a lot more fun.


  1. I totally agree, It really is about who, what and where you're cooking for. I could never focus just in one area. Good luck in your cooking adventure!