By Leanne Brown
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- ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 11, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
You’ve got this!
Good enough is a cookbook, but it’s as much about the healing process of cooking as it is about delicious recipes. It’s about acknowledging the fears and anxieties many of us have when we get in the kitchen, then learning to let them go in the sensory experience of working with food. It’s about slowing down, honoring the beautiful act of feeding yourself and your loved ones, and releasing the worries about whether what you’ve made is good enough. It is.
A generous mix of essays, stories, and nearly 100 dazzling recipes, Good Enough is a deeply personal cookbook. It’s subject is more than Smoky Honey Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Fennel Slaw or Sticky Toffee Cookies; ultimately it’s about learning to love and accept yourself, in and out of the kitchen.
Good Enough Preparation
Hold Up, Why Is This So Much Work?
When I first moved out on my own, I was confident about basically zero of it, except for the cooking and feeding myself part. I had worked in a café and been making meals for myself and for family members for years. So when I realized that I had to fill my fridge and pantry and even get kitchen equipment in order to have a hope of the triumphant meals and casual weeknight dinner parties I had imagined . . . I was disappointed. I had a lot of work and learning to do. “Doing the cooking” is so much more than just that time in the kitchen.
And honestly, it continues. I don't want to minimize the amount of work it takes to feed even just yourself each day. No one can give you a map to yourself and your life and your experience. Learning how to feed your unique self takes engagement and effort.
At the most basic level, we require a place to live, a sense of safety, a working kitchen, a source of income, a body that is supported, and emotional well-being. We often ask people to manage their own meals and mental load when they don't have these things we consider basic rights. And of course survival requires some to press on with feeding themselves even when they lack one or more key components—like feeling unsafe in the home or out in the world. Cooking requires a host of other tasks from us besides the time spent in the kitchen, and those tasks require skills and abilities that we often don't talk about:
- Deciding what to eat. Decision-making skills. Knowing what you want. Budgeting. A reasonable understanding of which foods are best for your body.
- Procuring the raw goods. Time. Money. Physical and mental ability. Freedom to move safely in the world.
- Storing the raw goods. Space. Time. Knowledge.
- Preparing the ingredients (washing, drying, chopping, and so on). Knowledge. Time. Organizational skills. Physical and mental ability.
- Cooking. Equipment. Time. Space and ability to focus. Flexibility. Curiosity. Interest. Physical and mental ability.
- Serving and eating! Relationship management. Sense of fun and aliveness, or presence. Social skills.
- Cleaning. Attention to detail. Diligence. Physical and mental ability.
- Storing leftovers. Organizational skills. Knowledge. Equipment. Space to store food within a safe, consistent space to call home.
Managing meals takes significant mental load.
And there's one important emotional skill that underlies all of these tasks: personal security. That is, cultivating a sense of your own worth and a willingness to actively love yourself.
This chapter addresses points 1 through 4 in the list above, and the following chapters will address 5, 6, and a little bit of 8. For point 7, cleaning, I have nothing for you, other than to approach it with the same self-caring intention as the rest of the process. Ask for help, make it fair, establish some good routines, and do what works best for you.
When you live with others, the items on the list require negotiation. Negotiation with loved ones can be light and easy and fun when things are flowing and you feel connected, but it can be fraught and full of emotional traps and unresolved patterns if you or your loved ones have unmet needs or painful unsaid things. Who is in charge? Who decides what? Who does the work? Who is responsible? I don't have the answers to these questions for your specific life, but if you feel weighed down by the general sense that there is too much to deal with when you enter the kitchen, know this: You are not alone.
A lot of people hate grocery shopping. A lot of people love it. Most people are ambivalent. Sure, taking a list is great. Getting organized is great. Making it a ritual and slowing down a bit with it is great, and we'll talk about all that more, but here I want to acknowledge one of the unspoken pains of grocery shopping: fear of judgment.
Food is so intimate, and the grocery store is a public place where we are making a lot of personal decisions about food. At the same time, we are all looking at each other's shopping carts and—sometimes subconsciously and other times completely consciously—making assumptions about who other people are. And so, of course, we are also carrying around discomfort, or for some, like me, maybe even real anxiety or fear, about what judgments others might be making about us by looking at our carts.
I cannot tell you how many times, whether out in the world or in my email inbox, I hear from often well-meaning people who tell me “horror stories” about what someone else was buying at the grocery store. “They are doing it wrong and I want to save them!” they claim. And all I can suggest is to urge them to focus on themselves and to stop making assumptions about other people's choices. It really doesn't do anyone any good. Yes, we want to see everyone have enough to eat, and yes, we want everyone to eat foods that nourish their bodies and minds and help them live longer, but there is so much we don't know about other people and their needs. Judgment without wisdom is poisonous, both to those we judge and to ourselves.
We might worry about what others think, but chances are that they, like us, are far too wrapped up in their own inner life to notice what we're buying. Even if the aisles were full of judgmental jerks, I certainly don't want to make my choices to please them—I already have one of those inside my own head, thank you very much.
Groceries in the Rain
One day I was sitting in front of my computer at my coworking space. I was miserable, struggling with writing that just wasn't flowing. My baby daughter was in day care, and these hours to think and do my own work felt immensely precious. I let myself drift to thinking about food, and suddenly my mind started churning and bubbling with recipe ideas. I had to get back home to my kitchen ASAP. I could still squeeze some success from this brutal day.
There was one catch: To make the food I was envisioning, I'd have to go to the grocery store first. Unfortunately, as I stepped outside, thick, swampy air enveloped me and I looked up at a darkening midafternoon sky. Thunderstorm weather. Haha! Too bad! Here goes, I thought to myself maniacally. I was loaded down with my purse, a bag with my breast pump, and my computer, but I hustled to the subway. It was a lot to carry already and I knew adding groceries would be a struggle, but I decided that I didn't care—I needed this.
A few subway stops later, I walked up the stairs and out into the world again. By then it was actually raining—those big fat droplets that mean this is a real one; this is some serious rain. So I hustled four or five long blocks (New York City long blocks take about three minutes to walk at a brisk pace) to the grocery store, very aware that home was still three long blocks from there. On the way, it began raining hard, soaking me almost immediately. By the time I reached the store, I was running awkwardly with my bags, breast pump banging against my hip, just to get inside and escape the torrent. I was drenched.
My breathing was short and I felt a little panicky. I knew this was an overreaction, but I couldn't seem to calm down. My mind was racing. I'm really wet already, and I'm not even home yet, and loading myself up with groceries will make it even harder. I can't just wait at the store for the rain to stop, or I'll run out of time to cook because I have to pick up the baby from day care in a few short hours. I could call a car, but it's just three blocks and when it rains, getting a ride becomes impossible since everyone has the same idea. I was worrying, but I decided to just focus on my first task: getting my groceries.
So I shopped—self-conscious the whole time about looking wet and bedraggled— and then checked out, still unsure how I would get home. Outside, the rain had lightened up a bit. So I thought, Okay, well, who knows how long this will last, so I'm going to leave NOW.
I hurried from the store, loaded down with purse, laptop, pump, and two large paper bags full of groceries. I was conscious of the fact that paper bags will disintegrate when wet.
The rain began to thicken again, and my whole body was so tense; my heart was beating wildly. Instead of ignoring the clear panic I was experiencing and hurrying on like I would have done in the past, today I felt curious. Why was I so afraid? Why was my body acting like a pack of wolves was at my heels instead of knowing I was simply on a street corner with some bags in the rain, in no real danger?
I tried to calm my stream of thoughts by starting a conversation. “Why are you so afraid of getting wet?” I took a deep breath. “It's okay, you're just going to get wet, that is totally survivable!” But a voice deep inside me responded, “No, it's not just getting wet, that's not what's so scary.” And I asked, “Well, what is it?” as kindly as I could. The voice responded, “Well, we could get so wet—and it's already starting to rain harder—that it could soak these grocery bags and they will disintegrate and all our groceries could fall out onto the sidewalk and be ruined or you just won't be able to get them home and then you can't do your recipes or we'll run out of time to come back and get them and we won't accomplish anything today and all this food will go to waste!” And so I said to the voice, kindly, “Yes, that would be difficult, but I think we can survive that.”
I sighed and relaxed a bit, but I still felt so much tension in my body. It wasn't just getting wet or having my groceries ruined or not being able to take advantage of my creative energy. It was something deeper still. So I asked again, “Is there more? What are you so afraid of?” And this last time something in me let go and that voice said, “I'm afraid of how ridiculous we look. Here we are walking in the street with all this stuff getting wet, with our bags about to burst. We look like we made the wrong decision. We look stupid and weak. Who would do this? What self-respecting adult with their life together does this?”
All that fear! That horrible tense feeling! All because I was worried about the judgment of others. Maybe they would point and laugh, but mostly I was afraid that they would look at me and see that I was wrong. I was feeling shame about making a mistake. There I would be, naked for everyone in my wrongness.
This revelation was quickly followed by another. In the past, if I had even let myself get to this point of admitting the truth—that I am deeply concerned with what other people think— I would have rolled my eyes at myself and said, “That's ridiculous. That is nothing to be afraid of.” And the tension would have stayed in my body and I would have hurried home, and then I would have been miserable from this fear of what other people think, as well as my own incredible self-judgment for being afraid of such a ridiculous thing. I wouldn't have helped myself at all—in fact, I would have made my situation worse.
But this time, somehow, in that moment on the street corner with my soaking wet bags, after all the work I had been doing to cultivate self-compassion, trying to treat myself in the same kind way I treat my daughter, things went differently. In that moment when my deepest self revealed that I was afraid of looking “wrong” in public, my first reaction was not admonishment but compassion. I felt genuine lightness and release almost instantly.
You can be kind with yourself about everyday fears, too—the little ones that you learn to push down, that you don't share, and that you therefore don't heal from.
My stomach let go of its sickening grip, my jaw, shoulders, and spine relaxed, and I grinned and welled up with tears of mirth. And then I was laughing in the pouring rain. I felt incredible. I felt space open up inside me, and it felt like laser beams burst out of me toward the other people around me. I was not alone out here in the rain—I was surrounded by other people who were also stuck in the rain. And there was nothing wrong with any of them, just as there was nothing wrong with me. I suddenly was looking around, noticing everyone, some on the sidewalk with me getting soaked, some in their cars (lucky!), one person walking their dog, another with their children. I could look away from me and the fears I had and out at these beautiful people all around me. Here we were together in the rain just doing the best we could. Some of us are caught in the rain because rain is a part of life. And I felt so connected to those people in that moment. I didn't care if they were judging me, and I couldn't really imagine that they were—because I wasn't judging myself. What mattered was that we were all alive together.
After I had my daughter, Io, I struggled for months and months to find the balance between caring for her, caring for the other people in my life, and caring for myself. For the first many months of her life, balance for me meant complete focus on Io and absolutely nothing for myself or others. This is pretty standard new-parent behavior—that doesn't make it right or good, but it's standard. I told myself that I was caring for myself by caring for Io because I wanted nothing more fiercely than for her to thrive. Looking back, I realize I had serious parent guilt. I thought that if there was any moment when I wasn't focusing on her, I was letting her down. I was putting so much pressure on myself and building up a lot of resentment that ended up being released into my other relationships. My mental state slowly improved as I began to come out of the fog of exhaustion and intensity of early parenthood. I started to notice what I needed: more help, more time to myself, and more time with friends to reconnect to who I was without Io.
One day my husband, Dan, asked me to describe my perfect day, no limits. I surprised myself by describing a day with a personal butler. Someone who knew just what I liked and lived for nothing more than to make me happy. Someone who would follow me around and silently clean up after me, set everything out without being asked, make sure there was mint and lemon in a cold pitcher of water in the fridge, carry me to bed and tuck me in when I fell asleep reading on the couch. You know, just treat me like a queen—and, in an important point for my particular psyche, this butler would be happy to do it! There would be no judgment or annoyance, just desire to give me the space and opportunity to be my best self.
This dream of a perfect day might not seem significant, but it felt important to me. A butler was not my usual fantasy. It reached me in a way that a zillion new-parent articles couldn't. I finally noticed that I needed some serious care. Since long before Io was born, I had been in the habit of doing everything for myself because I didn't think I was worthy enough for anyone else to do it. But lately, I had stopped doing anything for myself; not only did I not believe I was worthy of other people's help, I also didn't feel worthy enough for my own help. But as Io's first birthday passed by, I began to realize, with the help of therapy, reading, reflection, and conversation with trusted friends, that I am definitely worthy of my own time. And so my butler appeared.
I decided to do an experiment: I would pretend to be my butler and do all the things I wished he would do for me. While the fantasy could never come precisely true—there is just no way I can carry myself to bed—I realized that there is so much of that caregiving that I can do for myself. Yes, I am 100 percent about to tell you that playing make-believe helped me take better care of myself. I'm whimsical, okay?
I wanted my butler to seem like a real(ish) person so I could fully connect to him. Along came Antonio. My Antonio is an older Italian gentleman with wavy salt-and-pepper hair and twinkly, smiling eyes who wears beautiful suits, sings to himself, and has a gentle, fatherly nature. And, of course, he is paid handsomely and feels valued and adored in return.
Finding Your Own Antonio
If self-care is something you struggle with, you may need an Antonio, too. So who is your Antonio? Is she a young woman who reminds you of your favorite hairdresser? A huge fluffy teddy bear brought to life? A cute fairy? Mr. Rogers? Think about what feels comfortable for you. I know it might seem childish, but try not to judge yourself, and let your imagination free here. Once you have settled on the right character for your butler, I hope you'll play with the idea and use this persona to figure out what you could do to take care of yourself every day.
Antonio loves taking care of me. He is motivated by pure love, never judging my needs as too trite or silly to bother with—unlike what I often do to myself. By inhabiting this persona, I began to practice the art of self-distancing, a technique in which you step outside yourself and observe from a safe distance in order to see things more clearly. As Kristin Neff explains in her book Self-Compassion, when you focus on caring for yourself, it allows you distance from the pain you are experiencing. Instead of sitting paralyzed inside the pain, you spend time inhabiting the part of yourself capable of giving care, and that experience is deeply empowering and energizing.
From this safe distance, you see yourself as you truly are: a flawed and utterly lovable human being. As Antonio, I could love myself and find the energy to care for myself. I could care for myself as lovingly as I take care of my daughter and partner.
Antonio would gladly do all the chores I tended to avoid or felt annoyed or resentful about doing, like scrubbing the stovetop, washing and properly storing produce after I buy it, and, yes, putting mint and lemon in a big jar of water in the fridge. He always got my bills and other paperwork done quickly because he didn't want me to worry about expenses and piles of paper. Being Antonio was a transformative experience. And the exciting part was that I could be my own Antonio simply by not judging myself for having needs and not avoiding taking care of them.
Some of you are probably thinking, Shouldn't her husband have done some of this? Or Couldn't they afford a housekeeper or ask friends to help? And you're right; I didn't need to do it all myself. But I had been stuck in a pattern of not being able to voice my needs for so many years. Remarkably, being Antonio actually helped me to ask for help from others. Antonio would ask for anything on my behalf, even if it was difficult or embarrassing, because he thinks his strong, kind, brave boss deserves it! If she is happy and taken care of, the world is a better place.
We all need and deserve our own butlers, but being Antonio is not about taking on everything yourself. It is about creating the space in yourself to notice the self-care that you can take on, find the courage to ask for the help you need, and accept that some dirty dishes and undone tasks are a part of life.
The Dream of an Infinite, Magically Fresh, Fully Stocked Food Storage System
It is impossible to have on hand every ingredient I might ever like to cook or bake with. The space-time continuum won't allow it. Things would rot before I could eat them all, and my little Brooklyn kitchen would be overwhelmed. But here are the foods I would have available if such petty realities did not exist. These lists are, of course, a window into my own tastes and habits and background. Your dream pantry would look a little different. Nevertheless, thinking about what you love to eat and making a plan to keep it in stock can help you organize your next shopping trip and make meal planning a little more fun. You might imagine your dream pantry kitted out the way your Antonio character would build it for you.
Cupboard or Pantry
Alternative flours of choice
Dates and other dried fruit
Granulated sugar (see note)
Honey (see note)
Molasses (see note)
Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pistachios, cashews)
Pure vanilla extract
Seeds (sunflower, poppy, sesame)
Whole wheat flour
Oils and Vinegars
Apple cider vinegar
Boxed broth and stock
Boxed mac and cheese
Canned coconut milk
Canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes
Canned whole tomatoes
Long-grain rice (I like basmati)
Dried Spices and Herbs
Crushed red pepper flakes
Fine sea salt
Ground chile powder
Ground smoked paprika
Whole and ground coriander
Whole and ground cumin
Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon
Whole and ground cardamom
Whole and ground cloves
Whole nutmeg (see note)
Not Essential but Awesome
Various ground chiles (such as cayenne or ancho)
Honey: I tend to prefer pourable, runny honey because it is more convenient for baking and drizzling. I like my honey dark and flavorful.
Molasses: I usually use “fancy” molasses because it is the best for most baked goods. Blackstrap molasses is very strong and has a kind of bitter taste that can be a little unpleasant if you are, say, using it to make chocolate chip cookies.
Sugar: I never buy brown sugar, even though I prefer it to granulated (white) sugar and use it all the time. But I don't like the bother of keeping it from going hard, so I just add molasses to granulated sugar in any recipe that calls for brown sugar. The ratio is 1 tablespoon molasses for every 1 cup granulated sugar for light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons molasses per 1 cup granulated sugar for dark brown or demerara sugar. Molasses added freshly to sugar tends to impart a stronger, more caramelly flavor to the baked goods, and I prefer it!
Nutmeg: I massively prefer whole nutmeg over ground nutmeg. You can easily grate whole nutmeg with a Microplane, and the aroma is amazing! So much is lost when it is preground.
Hardy Fruits and Vegetables Drawer
Tender Vegetables Drawer
Dark leafy greens
Herb bundles (see note)
Parmesan or romano
Ricotta or feta
Any other favorite cheeses
Soy sauce or tamari
Dairy and Eggs
Fresh ravioli or fresh noodles
Homemade sauces and dressings
Herb Bundles: When you buy fresh herbs, wash them, wrap them in moist paper towels or tea towels, and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for as long as possible. One exception is mint, which doesn't keep long. I almost always use it the first day or two after I buy it, and if I don't, then the next day I just put the mint in a jug of drinking water for flavoring.
Burger patties, premade (see here)
Ginger (see note)
Ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough
Ready-to-bake toffee cookie dough
Salmon (see note)
Shrimp (see note)
“In a world cluttered by confusing messages about food, bodies, and where you belong, Good Enough is a comforting hug, helping you reimagine your relationship to cooking for more joy, flexibility, and fun!”
—Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness
“Good Enough is a cookbook full of tried-and-true, approachable and craveable recipes that will encourage even the most harried home cooks to enter their kitchens. But it's more than that. It's also a personal, moving meditation on the importance of self-care and self-nourishment through life's difficult times. Most of all, it is a testament to the life-changing power of radical acceptance.”
—Gena Hamshaw, author of Power Plates and The Full Helping blog
- On Sale
- Jan 11, 2022
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Workman Publishing Company