The Unexpected Present

Cooking for Your Soul and for Ukraine

Yuri cooks

Cooking. The basics for life. A human need. Eating good food brings comfort, so we align ourselves with comfort food. Creature comforts are not frivolous; they are necessities for a happier and more positive outlook on life and living. About a natural positive response – we enjoy the aromas, the visuals, the plating extravaganza, or the beauty of the most straightforward meal.

After two months in the hospitals, Yuri was so physically weak that I was concerned that he would become frustrated and depressed. When he escaped the crazy-town ward and went to rehab, he was still attached to a feeding tube and “NPO,” meaning “nothing by mouth.” The inability to swallow discouraged him. He had to learn the mechanics of it, how to be safe that it goes down the right way and not aspirate.

When he asked for a MacBook Pro, I heartily agreed because it would give him more choices to consume positive affirmations rather than the mindless junk food that the hospital channels offered. It took Yuri several days to acclimate to the physical weight of his hand finger-tapping on the keyboard. Once he succeeded, it opened new worlds for him. He made a bee-line for one thing– cooking shows. He watched PBS’ The French Chef with Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and his favorite, Jean-Pierre. The cuisine: reimagined fish, chicken, Chinese wok cooking style, soups, and a garden variety of fresh herbs and unique spices.

As a hunter-gatherer, I brought seasonal foods and fresh produce from the local farms and markets. The kitchen became a physical and occupational therapy space. It’s where he learned to lean against the sink, look out over the lake view, and pull himself up from the wheelchair several times per the time allotted. I assessed the physical kitchen, finding ways to make it more accessible for him. 

It brought me back to my mother’s kitchen– always warm with enticing smells of home cooking. Her garden became my garden for a time, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the garden. Growing up, she wanted to feed the world because she recalled how there was so little food for her mother to single-handedly divvy out among her six children, mother, and mother-in-law. My mother’s cooking could feed an army. Maybe that’s why I am delighted when cooking for a crowd. Or when I save the scraps for the chickens and goats or fill the birdfeeder, leave out a can of cat food for the visiting feral cat, Romeo.

Currently, human needs, food, shelter, warmth, and safety, are being attacked by Russian aggression affecting Ukraine and the world. Yuri and I want to do something for the people surviving such horrific circumstances and for the World Central Kitchen, whose chefs are putting their lives out there, cooking on the front lines to feed the people fighting for their lives and freedom from Russian domination.

Cooking for Ukraine, a Pampered Chef event and fundraiser for the World Central Kitchen, will begin online Monday, February 6, 2023, and through the week.

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