Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

“Yes, Cooking matters!”

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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This is a slightly abridged version of an email we received from an amazing young mom working hard to make a better life for her kids. It made my day, week month.  It affirms that sharing strength can be the key to some of our most solvable problems.

Hello,
I wanted to reach out to thank you for your incredible program. A little more than 2 years ago I was living in a shelter with my young son, who is now 3. I have always loved to cook, but at that time in my life there were so many unknowns. I was broken and depressed. I was so fearful of my future that I couldn’t take any joy in my day to day interests. And now, I had a baby to care for and nourish.

Then, the program I was living in brought in a Cooking Matters class for all the residents. Every week, we would talk about food and nutrition, shopping and budgeting, and the challenges faced by low income mothers to properly feed their families. Then, we would cook. Together. And eat, together. And laugh, together. What an incredible difference this program made in my life! I was building relationships with other women around me. I was sharing my passion for good food and cooking. At times I was even able to teach my peers from my own knowledge. I was able to find my passion again, and use it as a way to rebuild positive quality time with my family.

Fast forward to two years later. My family and I have a wonderful home filled with love and laughter, and of course, home cooking. Not only have I built a better life for myself, my son, and his father (my fiance); but, through my own healing and rebuilding my life, I was able to provide a home for my two teenaged step children when their mother was no longer able to care for them.

How could I break the ice, and make them comfortable in my home? I cooked. I cooked family dinners. I took the kids to the grocery store with me. We ate together. I baked treats and comfort food. I cooked favorite dinners, and new foods that they hadn’t tried before. I got them involved. I watched what they chose for snacks, and gradually added healthier options to the cabinets that would appeal to them.

And amazing things started to happen. My stepson, 17 at the time, would sit in the kitchen with me, and we would talk. Sometimes he would help, more often he wouldn’t. But I was giving him an outlet to talk, just like I had when I attended Cooking Matters class. Then my stepdaughter, 19 at the time, who lost her sight at the age of 6, started asking about cooking. We started talking about technique and how-to’s. We brainstormed a lot of ways that she could cook and what she could make. This was huge for me- because she is blind, she is very limited to what she can grab in the kitchen if no one is there to help.

And lastly, there’s my littlest boy. I am certain that every mother struggles with getting their toddler to try new foods. I relied hard on the advice of the instructors from Cooking Matters. My son always comes to the market with me. We spend A LOT of time in the produce aisle, talking about colors and shapes, and choosing what to buy that week.

My purpose in writing this today is to proudly declare that yes, cooking matters! I’m certain that I would still be eating dinner every night whether I had taken a Cooking Matters course or not. But through this course, I learned so much more than just “how to..” Cooking Matters gave me my confidence back when I was at the lowest point in my life. It encouraged me to go back to work in the food industry, which in turn provided  myself and my family with so many opportunities. And it gave me a whole new outlook on healthy eating (newsflash: you don’t have to be rich to eat nutritious foods!)

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for this program, for the wonderful instructors, the fun cookbook, the exciting classes. Thank you for making a difference in my life.

Heidi Alphen