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  • by Jamaal

Where There's Smoke...There's Me In The Kitchen (My Cooking Journey)

This will be my last blog post as a 40 year old man. I'll be 41 on Monday. Man, 41 years old. Boy, I'm old. Don't give me that stuff about "you're only as old as you feel..." and "your best years are ahead of you". I'm a realist. The party is about half over. And I'm trying to make it a helluva ride to the finish. But, I do take monetary presents and donations to the cause. So, as the famous quote from that all time great movie Coming To America goes, "We'll take the type of money that jingles, but we would rather the type of money that folds." God Bless.

As I think about my journey to Chapter 41, I reflect on things that I couldn't do at 21 but I can now do at 41. Life transformations are great things. For example, at 21 I could drink all night on Friday and then get up Saturday morning and play pick up basketball for hours. Alcohol coming out of my pores and everything. At 41...yeah notsomuch. I don't want to get up and go to the bathroom after a full night of drinking at 41. Which is why I don't do it as much. However, at 21, I couldn't buy a candy bar on credit. But at 41, I've got a mortgage and two car notes. Hmm, on second thought, I wanna go back to being 21.

At 21, I also couldn't cook worth a damn. I could make Kool-Aid NW Indiana/Chicago Style. (That is when you put the powder in first, then the water, then you pour sugar in until you see bubbles or the Lord leads you to stop. There is no other way to make Kool-Aid.) But that was about it. I ate fast food like it was life. McDonald's value meals when I was poor and White Castle or Rally's on payday. When I would go to the store, I didn't care what store I was going to because I wasn't shopping for deals or clipping coupons. And I would buy chips, beer, and snack cakes. That's it. Twenty bucks on groceries would last me a month.

And when I did want a home cooked meal, I would always be sure to keep a girl on my team who could cook. Now don't look at me in that tone of voice ladies. Raise your hand if you ever went out with a man that you weren't all that into just get the free dinner at a restaurant that you liked. Some of you did it when you were younger. Hell, some of you probably are doing it tomorrow night. Yeah, you know that the guy is going to try to get some. But you know you ain't going. It's like going on one of those vacations that you have to go to a timeshare presentation. You want the discounted trip but you ain't buying no timeshare. So yeah, you get that free meal at Cheddar's, but you ain't buying his timeshare afterwards.

Well when I moved to Iowa and became a father, I knew that I would need to step my cooking game up. Why? Because kids are already expensive. Yeah, buying clothes and daycare is expensive and all. But you parents out there know that the real money suck is food. Who knew that kids would have to eat everyday??? And when you have multiple kids, then that's multiple mouths. And well, twenty bucks at the grocery store really don't cut it anymore. I never fully appreciated how many times we had spaghetti or chili growing up until I got to be an adult. The value of making one meal and being able to eat it for days is a wonderful thing.

So I had to learn how to cook. And cook on a budget. Also, I wanted to have some food from my youth that was hard to find in Iowa. Soul food. So I learned how to fry chicken and fish. And I also learned how to make greens, hot water cornbread, and other things that people from the city take for granted. Ain't no Sharks or JJ's Fish on every corner in Cedar Rapids, IA. (And no, we aren't going to debate the merits of our Harold's here in town right now) So I had to make this stuff on my own.

The first time I tried to fry chicken, I damn near burned the house down. Smoke alarms were going off. One of my neighbors called the cops. It was my low point as a Black man to have the fire department show up at my door because I couldn't fry chicken. But I kept at it. I watched a lot of youtube. Drew upon my memories from childhood. And kept going.

I can honestly say that I can make some pretty good food now. There was some epic failures at times. I still haven't mastered meatloaf yet. (Just ask my kids about my meatloaf if you want to get the cutest eyeroll you ever seen in your life). My best dish is my fried chicken. I stole the recipe from my sister Lurlean. I tweaked it. And now its dope.

I also shop more effectively at the grocery store. I make a list and all that Suzy Homemaker shit. I shop at Aldi's as well. Even though I hate it. I hate the fact that every time I go there, I have to remember to bring a damn quarter. I've been that dude hanging out in the parking lot waiting on someone to take pity on me and give me a cart when I've forgotten the quarter. There is nothing more demeaning than being a black dude in a parking lot waiting on the goodwill of old ladies to give you a cart. Looks like I'm waiting on my next drug deal to happen. But I still go.

But, my cooking journey is just another way that I've matured in my life. And actually, I like to cook now. I like to be able to try new stuff and different tastes. I even hop on pinterest from time to time to find new dishes to make. With me being allergic to dairy, I've found a lot of things to make that don't include dairy. For example, I make a dope non dairy chicken and shrimp alfredo. (Don't knock it til you try it playa!)

Being a single dad is wonderful for all the things that you teach yourself to do that you couldn't imagine doing when you were younger. Cooking for me is one of those great things. So the next time you want a non dairy dish or wanna swap recipes, then holla at your boy! It's will be a lot more enjoyable than sweating out cheap liquor from the night before on the basketball court at 41.

Read and discuss!

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What is up? Yeah, yeah, yeah I know it's been almost a year since I've written a blog post. I wish I had a really cool reason like I was out seeing the Great Pyramids in Eygpt or something like that,

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