So I have always loved cooking since I was little and it helped a lot that both of my parents could cook and taught me how to cook, or shall I say they made sure of it that I knew how to cook. Thank God that they did! But by the time I got to college, I did what is commonly expected and typical to do. I was neglecting cooking for myself and chose the route of eating anything and everything in sight. Was I stress eating, I don’t know, but whatever it was I needed food fast and needed to eat it as fast as possible. It used to be so bad that I would have a stash of snacks in the armrest of my car; so fast food (as disgusting as it sounds for me to even type this) was a delicacy for me while I used to try and juggle 15-17 credit hour classes, do MMA at Spartan Fitness over in Hoover, Alabama, and juggle 1-2 part-time jobs. I don’t know what I was thinking or doing back then. I guess I wanted to just stay busy to feel like I was moving forward somewhere, wherever that may be, or maybe it was because I was doing so much because there was much I wanted to try and do. Whatever the reason I still needed the energy to do whatever it was that I set out for and food was my energy supply to ensure my high metabolism mixed with my blood pressure, continued to remain smooth.
Either way, my college years, although short-lived, mixed with the up-and-down relationship I was in at the time combined with constant job hunting for better work, was all the result of me neglecting and not truly taking care of myself like I needed to. I was aware of it at the time but was also learning that boundaries were a thing while learning how to enforce them (kind of why I was in an up-and-down rollercoaster relationship at that time). So one of the ways that I started to look towards self-care during my busy schedule was to take myself out on dates. In my mind, at least I could not stand myself up or forget to call myself back because I was too busy. I wanted to take myself out on dinner dates with just me, myself, and I, and what better way to do that than by going to dinner since I loved eating so much and trying new foods.
Now the typical thing that people do when they go out on dates is dinner and a movie. Sometimes the dinner involves candles. And I had gotten the idea of personal dinner dates by hearing about women taking themselves out on dates to show themselves that not only can they take care of themselves and know how to, but that they would not seek the need to get dressed nicely with only the hopes that someone would come along compliment them or take them somewhere. The idea behind self-dates was to get yourself accustomed to taking oneself out to not feel codependent on others to have a good time. I liked this idea, and even though I was never really scared to do things by myself I was still learning how to adjust to not expecting someone else to do something with me.
See this was the part that was the most difficult for me to adjust to back then. One of my preferred “love languages” that I learned from reading the book: The Five Love Languages was quality time and spending time with others whether that be making memories and experiences. So even though I could go to the movies alone I enjoyed it more with someone else whether that be with someone I was dating or a friend. I am the type of person that would legit not watch a movie that I would really want to watch, all because I prefer to do so with someone I cared to spend my time with. I am simple, the dinner dates are great and all but I don’t need the dinner and movies because an appreciation of a good time well spent is priceless to me. A time to experience something new with someone else that also may have the same new experience as me if we both didn’t see that movie made it even more special. So I did not know how to experience that newness with myself by taking myself out on dates and wanted to practice that. Problem was, since I did not grow up going out on dates (as I was not allowed to) I did not know what that properly looked like either…
Then it just only grew worse as I was in this self-care learning period when the annoying phrase, “Netflix and chill” came out and just ruined it for me with being able to spend time with people platonically. You see most people expect something even if they say something else. I am probably not telling you anything new. The something that a lot of people expected after a time out was not what I was interested in giving and this expectation would not come from strangers (which would be understandable) but would come from people I had already known and who knew what was up before we would be going somewhere or doing something.
So to avoid that assumed stigma that comes with, “Netflix and Chill, I only spent time closely with my female friends instead of my male friends. This alone was another growing pain because I already had a difficult time with letting go of spending too much time with my male friends platonically. I knew I needed to grow up at the time, but because I grew up as a “tomb boy” (a phrase I no longer find pleasure in saying anymore) I had for a time, more “male” interests than female interests and preferred spending more time with them then I did with most of my female friends. At the time a lot of them would mostly talk about annoying subjects or drama and interests that I was just not interested in. Now I am not saying that males don’t have drama because I know that is a lie, but I am saying that they had less that was tolerable. Either way, I understood that by the age of 23-25, I knew it was time for me to let go of playing videos games and going places with the guys because from three outsets it was no longer appropriate no matter what my love language preference was for socializing. Anyway back on point because that is another story for another time. Let me get back to talking about my horrible eating habits of the past and how I changed and turned eating into a form of self-care by taking myself out on dates with cooking.
Since I had noticed that I don’t have to take myself out on an expensive dinner date, I opted into staying in and making my meals and prep time special. Just like with most other things, when we get ready for work, we put on our work clothes, while some of us who still go to church may put on our “Sunday’s Best”. Well if we can prep for an occasion or an event and responsibility I should do that with cooking. I enjoy throwing down in the kitchen and since cooking is like going to work I should get dressed for work by taking out my apron and lighting me some candles to set my mood to cook. Before I realized it, I was making my own “new” experience and memory with myself and it felt great! Most people go out on dates for the experience, or to get to know and understand someone, while many may just go out for seeking attention. So what would be wrong with doing that for me? I said to myself that I love spending time with others that I care about, and even those that I don’t care about, so why not do that same thing for myself with cooking and adding candles to the mix?
I have considered writing with a low lamp by candlelight and there are many of you out there who may roll out those candles when it’s bath time, just like many take out the candles for someone’s birthday. Candles have to mean something since they are commonly used to denote special occasions.
Now, it is very common for people to pull out the candles at dinnertime after the food has been cooked but I thought, “Why wait until the food is ready to take the candles out? The intimacy does not start at the table.” Most people who love to cook can attest to the fact of how love goes into the food from the cook to others. Intimacy starts long before the plate is presented to someone. It starts just like it would when you go out looking for a gift for someone.
When you are out searching for the ingredients for your next meal you have specific brands that you like to use so this stage is intentional. Then, when you are at home there is certain cutlery that you choose that just works the second the blade taps or tings the bamboo cutting board. And from the way that you prep your food to the time you cook the food, there is so much intimacy and thankfulness to be experienced. For me, this looks like thanking God, that He not only provided the food that I am cooking but that He gave me understanding and new ideas on how to cook it. I say this because there would be times when out of the blue I would have a different way on how I would want to prep or cook something while I was making my next meal.
Similar to how it feels when I am video editing and drawing; the process of cooking feels like time does not exist. It is the same feeling that could be had when you are having fun and spending a wonderful time with someone where time does not seem to exist. For example, I would be cooking something that would normally take me 3-4 hours to complete, but I would end up finishing that same meal within 1-2 hours when I am enjoying myself. I never lose quality by taking my time and enjoying my time cooking, while at the same time I wouldn’t realize that I was learning how to spend quality time with myself as my candles flicker by my stove, dancing as if to say, ‘Good job!’.
Having candles while I am cooking is just so necessary being that any form of true intimacy is the presence of appreciation, awareness, and intentionality. Cooking sums all of that up plus some, when I am looking towards an avenue of self-care for that day, so why wait until after the plate is on the table to light a flame, especially when you are doing so for yourself? Take yourself out on a date, while keeping yourself in sometimes, so when you are courting or going on a date with someone and someone tries to hit you with that, “Let’s stay in at your place tonight.”—on the first date — you can tell them, “Naw been there done that”, And while they may be clueless as to what you meant by that and left with probably thinking that you are bringing over “a lot of people to your home” you leave them alone wondering in their lust as you await your next dinner date at home. And they don’t know and don’t need to know that you got a date with ‘you’ next Sunday (or whatever day of the week you cook). It is your appointed date that you can’t ruin and that you can’t be stood up on. A date where you set expectations knowing that they would be met every time you spend quality time with yourself cooking with those candles. The neat thing is that you can do this single and/or married.
And here is a side note about how I am just thinking about how there are so many feminists that don’t realize how they are actively practicing hatred towards others and themselves when they turn their noses up at the idea of a woman being in the kitchen cooking for someone or even for themselves. Many times I can see how this mentality comes from self-neglect having roots of coming from a neglectful upbringing. And I just think about how many of them loathe the idea of a woman being in the home, taking care of the children, and cooking in the kitchen or making her man a sandwich. But what if this type of woman cooked with candles for herself? She is missing out on so much because of believing in erroneous presumptions of what serving looks like when done in love. This type of woman is missing out on serving herself and doesn’t even see it. Pride does that you know.
If the women who hate cooking or hated serving others knew and understood the joy of selfless service to self and others, then they may not have the common feminists outlook on motherhood and “traditional femininity”, and I say this especially if they cook for themselves, candles or not. But maybe I will touch more on that another time. I have some thoughts about how or why the idea of a woman being at home is shunned and seen as repulsive to those who are self-entitled and demanding things in their pain; because hurt people hurt people. Hurt people, don’t serve people. So cooking would be far-fetched and incomprehensible to someone like that I guess. But alas, another time for that topic.
I tend to go on my tangents, but I hope you were well-fed in the process of your journey…Hopefully, you may consider cooking with candles yourself and if you do, please tell me how that experience was for you. Tell me about your cuisine setups for cooking that I may not have considered. And if you want to try cooking with candles, but you don’t have candles and you have a 2-year-old or a child as I do, there is a colorful array of 24-count Crayola “candles” that you can use temporarily until you get to the dollar tree. We can upgrade to the fancy and expensive candles from the Yankee store at another time, once you go out on enough “dinner dates” with yourself and prepare for your next feast. Your first “date” does not have to be expensive and neither do the candles. If you can only make hot dogs with a bag of chips do that with your Crayola crayons because, hey it’s a start! Whatever you cook invite me over please, cuz I love ta‘ EATTTTT!!!! And if you have made it this far, I thank you for listening, and happy cooking!
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