We all know that feeling. You go out to eat - maybe at a new place or an old favorite - and everything is just perfect, the taste, the smells, and when you finally put your fork down, you are just happy. Full and satiated, I usually call it “food coma.” Cal, a Cooking Matters participant, calls it “restaurant full”.
I recently had the joy of getting to know Cal during a Cooking Matters course in Massachusetts. In our first class, the volunteers and I sat down and talked to the participants, a group of young adults who were just learning how to live on their own. Over and over again they shared their struggles to purchase healthy foods, to prepare meals at home and to stretch their food across several meals. Cal was particularly frustrated with the “chore” of cooking, never enjoying what he made at home.
After listening to their concerns, our volunteer chef instructor, Robin, made a stir fry with the group, giving out tips about how to incorporate leftovers, plan ahead for other meals, and adjust the recipe for individual tastes. All of the participants raved about the final dish, and chattered about the ways they might be able to incorporate into their meals at home, but Cal looked crestfallen. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to join us for the next class, and was devastated that he wouldn’t get to learn how to make the next meal, nor participate in the next conversation.
When the class met again, we were greeted with a note waiting for us on the table, addressed “To Cooking Matters.” Inside was the most heartfelt story of Cal’s week of cooking and eating. He let us know that he ate a fruit or vegetable every single day that week (a first!) and declared “When I cooked the stir fry, it was AWESOME! And on top of that, it’s the first time I’ve ever been what I call ‘restaurant full’ in my own home. I NEVER thought I would be able to feed myself like that.”
Robin and I teared up while reading Cal’s note. It was a powerful reminder that everyone deserves to have the skills and knowledge to create that feeling for their own family. Course after course, I watch incredible Cooking Matters volunteers help participants slowly gain confidence and experience in their cooking abilities, so they too can feel as satisfied and nourished as Cal did.