“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” – Craig Claiborne
In my childhood memories, my mom always took care of our family by cooking every day. I remember those mornings with shredded sweet potato congee with a sunny-side-up egg, and pickled vegetables. Mom used to pack our lunches too, which we’d steam at school. And when evening rolled around, she’d whip up multiple home-cooked dishes in the blink of an eye. But what stands out most is those times when I’d come home from school with a growling stomach, and she’d magically serve up a bowl of vinegar-dressed noodles in just minutes. Simple yet delicious—black vinegar, thin noodles, and a sprinkle of scallions. I could eat multiple bowls of that!
Fast forward to college and working life, I became a frequent diner-out. Unless I visited my parents’ place, I rarely cooked at home. My apartments during those younger years didn’t even have a proper kitchen or dining table. It wasn’t until I got married and had kids, moving to our apartment in Taipei, that we finally had a proper dining table and kitchen. That’s when I start cooking, with all three of us happily seated at the table. And then, we became family of four, and five. For a while, I was the everyday cook, mainly to ensure the kids had nutritious meals, and because dining out with little ones could be quite challenging. Later, we opened a thrift shop (Re-store) and set up a cozy kitchen and dining space there. So, I almost cooked daily, not only for my family but also to serve our customers homemade dishes. But my primary goal was always to cook daily for my family and extend the same to our customers, sharing meals together.
I’ve been wondering why I lost the drive to cook daily as I used to. I’ve been trying to figure out when this beautiful routine came to a halt. I think my mom’s passing might have something to do with it because, since then, my dishes haven’t been as tasty as before, and cooking became a chore I’d rather avoid. Plus, the convenience of online food delivery services made us feel that cooking was time-consuming and tiring.
A few days ago, as I was sorting through photos, I came across many images of preparing meals at our thrift shop and us eating together. It reminded me of a passage I once wrote while promoting our homecooked meals:
Passage I wrote in early 2018 about our thrift store, Re-store
Over a year ago, we rented this old house in Nangang, transforming it from a derelict ruin into the warm thrift store it is now.
Last winter, the Christmas tree in the store was lit up, and I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. A foreign teacher who had just finished class sat at the bar sipping a beer, quietly reading a novel. My older daughter, fresh from first grade, sat at the bar doing her homework. A mother and daughter customers chatted while watching my other daughter and my son play a role-playing game.
A boy running passed our storefront, stopped and curiously peeking inside through the glass door. But his smile quickly faded as the adult accompanying him pulled him away, still talking on the phone with a displeased look. My kids seemed to have noticed what’s going on outside the store, opened the door with big smiles and said loudly, “Welcome!!!”
I peeked outside through the gap in the kitchen window, seeing the adult was still talking on the phone, and shot a glare at my kids, annoyed. Then, he forcibly tugged the boy’s arm and walked away. My kids seemingly unaffected by this negative encounter, let go of the door and continued playing their game. At that moment, a woman who had just finished work passed through the crowd in front of bus stop and came to the door. She Stood quietly at the door, watching the children play inside until my son yelled, “Mommy!”
My kids hurried over to her, and she squatted down, embracing and kissing their warm cheeks.
“Right on time, dinner’s ready!” I smiled and said to everyone.”
I miss that scene dearly, and I want to turn cooking into a happy routine again. So, I discussed it with my children and decided to start this 21- to 90-day Home cooking challenge! I’d like to invite any families or individuals who are interested to join in this taste-of-happiness daily challenge!!
Why should you join this challenge?
- More interaction with your kids: Involve them in meal prep and cooking.
- Improve your culinary skills: Experiment with different dishes and ingredients.
- A more balanced, healthy diet for your family: you can choose more natural ingredients, reduce processed foods, and control added salt and sugar.
- Save money: Dining out in the U.S. can be expensive!
- Establish a happy routine: There’s nothing like sitting together at the same table as a family!
- Share recipes and document life: Through this challenge, you can record your daily life and share delicious dishes with others.
- Are there prizes for completing the challenge? Yes!! The biggest prize is being able to sit down with your family and enjoy meals together every day. Okay, okay, if there is a family that completes the 90-day challenge with us, I’ll host a big BBQ party, inviting all the successful challengers to come and enjoy. For our vegetarian friends, I’ll prepare plenty of veggies, mushrooms, and rice.
- Cook at least one homemade meal each day. We know that families are busy and will need to dine out sometimes. So a simple, hearty breakfast for the kids in the morning will be fine too.
- Take a photo of your daily dish as a record and share recipes if you like. Tags your photos to our Facebook or Instagram, or use these hashtags #MuchLoveChallenge #HomeCooking on your post .
- If you encounter situations where cooking isn’t possible (traveling where cooking is difficult or when the whole family is sick), just postpone your goal date.
- Feel free to join the challenge at any time and set your own duration.
- If we start counting from today, the 21st day will be October 3rd, and we will set a record on that day for accomplish the first phrase of the challenge.
- And the 90th day is December 11th. So, we’ll complete this challenge before Christmas!! It’s perfect time for BBQ party!!
So, are you up for the challenge? Let’s make cooking a regular source of happiness in our lives once more! #MuchLoveChallenge #HomeCooking