I wasn’t always a good cook. I used to have a steady rotation of 5-6 meals that I made well, but I hated spending time in the kitchen. In fact, I resented the hell out of it. There’s a lot of emotional, social, and cultural baggage connected to food, and at the time, I wasn’t ready to unpack it. To me, cooking was a chore to be endured. I absolutely loathed it. I did the bare minimum. I felt like a failure.

Thankfully, those attitudes (and my first marriage) didn’t last!

Once I was free to cook for myself and my children without any expectations, dinner was no longer a loaded topic. It became an opportunity to nurture. I was free to experiment and make mistakes. Preparing healthy, delicious food became a joy, not a burden. Cooking became fun.

I didn’t have any sort of background in actual culinary techniques, but I learned a lot over the years by watching cooking shows on TV. Some of my faves are Alton Brown, Sara Moulton, Tyler Florence, Giada de Laurentis, and especially Ree Drummond and Ina Garten. Most of the recipes on TV are available online, and no one will judge you for googling “How many cups in a pint” over and over. (Hint: it’s 2.)

I’m happily remarried, and over the years I have discovered that I like cooking because it’s a way I show love for my family. The effort is worth it because we are worth it. Preparing food is a gift I give to myself and to my loved ones.

But don’t think for a minute that you have to have a family to make cooking worthwhile. Cooking is also a love letter to yourself. Use food to nourish your body and be kind to your soul. You will spend approximately 33,000 hours of your life eating. That’s 1,375 days, or 3.8 years. Make that time worthwhile. Make it count.