Learning From Food

I grew up around food.  My mom owns a business that deals with making and serving food and my aunt owns a restaurant and for as long as I can remember I helped out in those places, waiting on customers, making change, cooking orders, delivering the meals.  Last year I even had a short-term gig at a meat store where I learned all about different cuts of meat and how to best prepare them and how to make chili by the gallon and hamloaf by the ton (I’m being totally serious).  Cooking has always been a job for me, but it wasn’t until recently that I began exploring the artistic element of making food.

I have always viewed cooking as a job; something I do to make a little money.  It was a Nothing more, nothing less.  In college I lived off of Ramen Noodles, P B & J sandwiches and cereal as my go-to meals.  Anything fast and easy.  But being married to a hard-working carpenter, PB & J doesn’t quite cut it…especially when he comes from a family where his mama is a very good cook.  This man is used to fulfilling and good tasting food, and I was determined to meet those desires.

I spend most of my newly married days home alone and at times it is painfully quiet.  Being in a new place and processing a lot of transitions makes it so there is a lot of thinking going on in my head, but not always an outlet for processing those things with others.

Growing up, some of my deepest, hardest, and most encouraging conversations with my family happened in the kitchen.  I had a spot on the counter where I would sit and my mom and I would talk late into the night about everything under the sun.  Sunday afternoons after church the four of us would sit at the table long after the meal was finished, chatting about life, what God was teaching us, our agendas for the week, who was playing who in football that evening.  It was a space where my soul connected with the people I love.  Forget the family room…the Ober’s were kitchen people.

But in the Sider household two or more people in our kitchen becomes a fire hazard.  Our baby kitchen was not specifically made for group chats, however I am finding a new form of communication in my kitchen.  I’m learning to find calm in the whirring of a mixer and the sizzle of chicken and garlic and onions as they fry in the pan.  The sounds I make in my kitchen help me break the silence.  I’m beginning to love cooking.  I’m beginning to see the meals I cook and the treats I bake as little love letters to my husband and my friends, because frankly, some days my soul gets homesick for familiar and my mouth cannot muster up the words to express love and gratitude to the people around me. 

This season of transition has been one of the most challenging seasons, both emotionally and spiritually.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle some days to get out of bed, get out of sweatpants, and get out of the house.  There are some days that the loneliness becomes too much to bear and I can’t keep the tears from falling.  In those moments, I begin to wonder what will make me happy.  Would it be a different location, or a different house, or a puppy? (seriously, I have debated on getting a dog).  But in those moments I am reminded that my love for God and my love for my husband need to exceed my environment; that happiness needs to be replaced joy and peace and contentment.  

During this season, this verse has become my mantra; the hymn of which my soul is constantly reminded. 

“And if not, He is still good.” – Daniel 3:18

In this New Year, I am working on doing what is in front of me, whatever that may look like.  I am trying to celebrate and embrace the daily, mundane occurrences.  I want to expand my cooking abilities and learn new things and discover better ways to serve my husband and honor my family and friends all because deep down I truly believe this life is the best gift God will ever give me, and I want to use mine to its fullest potential, believing that regardless of what unfolds, “he is still good”.


Ashley Sider