I'm a 23-year-long vegetarian. True confession: Only in the last 8 years has my diet consisted largely of veggies and fruits (of all varieties). I used to be a vegetarian who ate mostly grains. Actually, I used to be a vegetarian who didn't like to cook.
The good news is now I enjoy cooking; I enjoy making tasty food from simple, yet fresh ingredients. I feel better when I eat this food--both because I slow down during the process and my body appreciates the nutrients. The key was realizing how easy it is to make tasty, healthful, interesting food. And than actually experimenting. Testing recipes, trying my own concoctions, screwing up, making changes, and realizing it was all okay (and actually fun).
My strong preference is for simple recipes that involve interesting flavors. (Thank you, Heidi Swanson.) Recently, I've made a curry-cauliflower soup, sunchoke-Swiss-chard-jalapeno gratin, and a Thai-spiced squash soup. (All complemented by our regularly baked bread--which was another seemingly too-much-to-deal-with operation, but has lead to delicious, homemade bread each week.) And during the summer I have multiple ways of getting kale (a super food!) into my diet: garlicky greens, kale pesto, and a kale salad--massage those leaves lovingly for a few minutes and they really do become tender.
Now that I've embraced cooking and embraced a wide range of veggies and flavors, I love sharing food with others. To slowly make food and then savor that food with friends, including interesting conversation and a glass of wine--this is one of my very favorite things to do. As our Penzey's bumper-sticker reads: "Love people. Cook them tasty food." Cooking brings me back to myself and back to the life-story of the ingredients. Sharing the food fills my heart with happiness.
For most of my life, Christmas trumped Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. In the last few years, Thanksgiving has been my most special holiday. The day is centered around cooking--being in the kitchen, sharing conversation, helping each other, slowing down to chop vegetables (taking a mid-afternoon break to play flag football). And when the meal is served, I feel such gratitude. There are no presents to buy, no frenzy of wrapping or unwrapping, no feeling that we must have a certain gift to be happy. There is simply tasty food, shared experience, and deep thanks. And really, what more do we need?