Cooking as coping mechanism

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2009

As our company came in to the house Sunday afternoon, I glanced around at the countertops, each covered with cookies and cakes. Our house had been turned into a bakery the previous day, and now all the guests had to help eat all the goodies.

My sister-in-law, Ieleen, walked in the kitchen, looked around and made a simple statement: “Football season, huh?”

She hit the nail on the head.

There’s something about football season that makes me want to cook. I think it comes from being nervous and needing some distraction during the game. Or, maybe, it’s the cold weather and its natural ability to make you want to eat good warming things like stew. Or, maybe, I just like to eat, and it’s a good excuse.

Whatever the reason, my husband has come to expect a buffet on football Saturdays. Sometimes, there’s even a theme.

For the Virgnia Tech game, I cooked a turkey breast. For the Alabama/Arkansas game, I made, of course, roasted pork. I haven’t decided what I will do for the Kentucky game, as I don’t have any wildcat meat in the freezer.

It’s not just entrees, either.

You can’t watch a game without snacks, be it chicken wings or chips and homemade dip. Or desserts. No celebration is complete without cookies or cupcakes or homemade eclairs.

The strange thing about this sports-related cooking is I often end up not eating the very things I work so hard on. I’m too nervous to eat during the game and too busy cleaning up everything after it stops.

Everyone else really appreciates the fruits of my labor, though.

I come by this work-as-a-distraction thing naturally. My mother, who’s also a big football fan, cleans the house during a game. She turns the game on the radio and starts scrubbing. By the fourth quarter, her kitchen is spotless, her floors are shiny and clothes are all folded.

If things are going well, she will go turn the game on the television and watch the end. If things aren’t going well, she turns the volume down on the radio and tackles something really big, like organizing a closet.

I’ve taken the same process into the kitchen. There is a problem, though. Mother’s habit is productive; mine is fattening. Hers yields tangible results; mine yields calories. But, boy, mine sure does taste a lot better.