Who wants to start cooking with less processed food?
“Soup’s On!” was the phrase my mom used to yell out whenever dinner was on the table and ready to eat. It didn’t matter if we were actually having soup or not, it was just what you said when dinner was done. My own cooking journey started from a very young age when my mom started both my sister and I off with the ABC Cookbook, which contained a different recipe for each letter of the alphabet. This book allowed the three of us to have a fun time in the kitchen together. It wasn’t actually this cookbook that made me fall in love with cooking though, that came later.
As we grew older my parents continued our culinary education by requiring us to do small tasks in the kitchen. It was never anything super challenging at first, but I can still remember standing on my turtle-shaped step stool after school in order to be able to reach the stove top. It was usually my job to stir whatever was in the pot and make sure it wasn’t burning or sticking to the bottom. Gradually these tasks increased, and by the time I had reached fifth grade I was so glad that I lived in a cooking household.
I had always battled with my stomach, particularly in the mornings. When I was very little the doctors all decided I was lactose intolerant and told me to avoid dairy, so I did. However, that didn’t fix the problem. I continued to get terrible stomach aches after meals, and when I was in fourth grade I had such continual morning sickness that one morning I got sick on the school bus, the bus driver dropped me off on the side of the road and I had to find a different way of getting to school from that day forward. After that day I started to get tested to see if there was something else wrong, and the doctors finally figured it out. I had never been lactose intolerant, I was fructose intolerant. The reason I was sick most mornings was because like most children, my favorite breakfast foods were pop tarts and sugary cereals, both of which were usually loaded with high fructose corn syrup.
After my diagnosis, life became a lot better. Being in a family that already enjoyed cooking, now we really amped it up. We started figuring out how to make more things homemade, such as bread, and salsa, and many types of soups. For items that we didn’t make homemade, we started label-checking instead. We checked labels of pasta sauces and canned goods, and we figured out how to cook on an even deeper level. This was the point where my interest in cooking increased, because now cooking wasn’t only about making a quality meal, but it was about making a quality lifestyle.
The summer after being proclaimed fructose intolerant, I started cooking one dinner per week. I would pick a new recipe each week, add my ingredients to the grocery list, and make the entire meal under my mom’s supervision instead of just helping with the simple small tasks. The Christmas after, the main item on my list was my own set of pots and pans, a set that I still own and use today. My mom continued to guide me and help me out, and I grew from following a recipe to instead looking at recipes as a base and then changing them into my own creation following my own taste preferences, typically figuring out how I could add a layer of spice and zip to it.
My growing skillset became really important to me during my freshman year of high school. That year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. During the chemotherapy treatments my mom would be so sick that she would be confined to her bed. My dad was both working and taking care of my mom when he got home, so the kitchen became my domain. During this time, I was able to make quality meals for both my dad and I to enjoy, and even though people sometimes offered to bring meals over for us, we didn’t have to rely on anyone to get by. I was able to take on the household responsibility and still keep my fructose intolerance under control.
It wasn’t until college though that I became truly grateful for the skills that life had forced me to acquire. I was one month into my college education and I became sick. Not just a little sick, but going to the emergency room sickness that was not under control. It turns out that eating the college cafeteria food for one month straight was having a terrible effect on me. I don’t think it comes as any surprise that this food would have fructose in it, but when I was living in a dorm and adjusting to college life I didn’t think about using the one tiny kitchen that was in the basement of the entire building. After a $500 emergency room visit, I had had enough. I started cooking at least two meals per week and made sure that there were leftovers from those meals that I could use as lunches. I still had to rely on the cafeteria a little, but I could cut down on my visits in order to make sure that I was staying healthy.
After college I have continued experimenting and creating new recipes of my own. When I have a stressful day at work I start thinking about what I can cook at home to decompress. Nothing takes the stress away quite like chopping veggies, and eating a delicious meal as a product of my own time in the kitchen. This blog will focus on all of my favorite recipes. While the recipes may not always be the food of “health nuts,” I will always do my best to keep them low on fructose. I can’t use the words “fructose free” because many foods contain natural fructose in them. To cook without any fructose would mean no tomatoes, no onions, no strawberries, and many other delicious foods. Everyone is different. To me, I can live a happy and healthy lifestyle if I am sure that I am avoiding the worst of the processed sugars, but other people need to stray away from all fructose. If you are looking for a blog with feel good comfort food that strays away from processed food, then look no farther.
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