Here’s the Thing: Savoring the soup

My goal was to write something entertaining for you, but instead I’m stuck on Google looking for Tom Kha Gai recipes.

Tom Kha Gai is a delicious Southeast Asian dish that tastes like heaven in a bowl. The smell is earthy from the mushrooms and inviting, but the lemongrass keeps it floral. The coconut milk is sweet, the fish sauce brings serious umami, then the vibrant citrus flavor of lime cuts through to snapshot your moment. You almost forget there’s even chicken in the bowl, but that’s the protein that fuels you for the rest of the day. It’s simple, yet genius. Thank you Mermaid Cafe in Homer for that delicious bowl of soup! Now I’m on a mission to figure out if I can make this at home.

Here I am talking about food. Not surprising. The kids are in school, so I’m trying to take my time to eat better without sacrificing flavor. Meal planning is definitely on my to do list. It’s going OK, but I wish something would click for me. When I cook you can tell when my inner chef comes out or when it stays home. My mind gets so busy. Cooking used to be relaxing and my time to be creative. Now thinking about it sort of paralyzes me and makes me wish we were dining out instead. We all have those aggressive menus on our fridge or tucked away in the junk drawer that whisper to you to put on some pants and order delivery. Alas, I’ve got to get it together and tackle my cooking game.

Even if I took some cooking classes in the past, I don’t think I’d soak in what they’re trying to teach me. Too much was going on. When you slowly leave the survival mode of easy tacos and get into the luxury have having that leisure time for experimenting with Asian cuisine for example, it kind of freaks me out. That is how my life has been. Cooking for babies, then kids, then big kids. Remembering who hates onion, which one hates tomatoes, and figuring out what I can make in less then 15 minutes.

As they’ve grown up, I’ve grown up a little too. I’ve learned some easy, hard, quick, and fickle recipes. I’ve lost some wooden spoons and my favorite mixing bowls along the way. I’ve got the same ghetto mixer my mom found for me at a garage sale that will probably outlive us all. My supplies could probably use an upgrade and my culinary skills could too.

When we first got married, we were broke. That brings up mixed feelings, but we made due. I learned a lot and my permanent attitude in life is grounded from it. You realize who loves you, what drives you (besides money), your own thriftiness, and how to find healthy ways to break out of eating Top Ramen every night. The hunters in our life gave us fish that they caught and game meat that they shot. Lots of moose tacos, baked halibut, salmon kabobs, and whatever my brain could come up with, all while having a newborn on my hip.

We made visits to the Food Bank, we participated in WIC (Woman, Infants, and Children nutrition program), and that’s of course after we visited the ABC Pregnancy Care Center. With the kindness and support from those workers and programs, our self-respect stayed healthy. We were grateful, thankful, and somewhere inside of us, we knew God would supply all of our needs. Through those people, they helped me grow from a young, fragile mother to a strong, confident mother.

Here’s the thing, maybe you’re like me and need to find that extra “oomph” to cook out of your ordinary. When I was in my early 20s there was no Pinterest. Getting creative with food meant finding a recipe in a cookbook and adding something to make it your own. It meant finding that magic dish at a potluck that made your tastebuds soar, then kindly harassing the creator for techniques and tips on how to make it.

Where will you find your cooking inspiration? Now we have Pinterest! Even so, I’ll still go to the library at look at vibrant pictures of recipes in Cooking Light, Rachael Ray, or O Magazine. Watching cooking shows, mostly reality TV competitions if we’re being honest, give me ideas. Implement specific goals if you have any! For example, I’m type 1 diabetic so I try to go the low carb route without getting bored or going too heavy on the meat and cheese. My inspiration at the moment was that bowl of soup, so I’m bravely off to buy the unfamiliar ingredients.

As in any stage of life, one cooking rule remains the same. If I tank this meal, we’re ordering pizza.

Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at columnkasi@gmail.com.

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