What’s My Why?

Many of you are friends and family, but most of you are people I have never met before. Some of the things I’m going to write about are deeply personal, but I know that if I at least reach one person with my story, I am doing something good.

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When did I start cooking?

When I was a pre-teen, my younger sister and I used to experiment with easy-pre made foods. I would turn top ramen noodles into chicken-flavored pasta and add butter (seriously). We put ranch seasoning into mashed potatoes. Pizza bagels, and sometimes pizza toast, were an after-school essential (still so good, but now I use a tortilla).

In high school, however, I actually started cooking. I loved making omelettes with tomatoes and basil and feta cheese. I loved going to restaurants and trying new foods. I loved trying to recreate that interesting food at home, too.

I really think that college is where it all changed. Although I was living at my parents’ house for the majority of the time, I was cooking most things on my own. I also began cooking food for my friends and family. I loved looking up vegetarian recipes online and recreating them. The city I grew up in didn’t have much to do, so when my friends and I hung out, we were always making dinner together. It was something we all really bonded over and we all loved the challenge of making food we had never tried before.

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After moving out of my parents’ house, my love and desire to cook and experiment in the kitchen really took off. And after leaving, California and coming to the Midwest (where there is almost nothing vegetarian), Todd & I cooked everything we ate. In the winter, cooking became a fun activity we did together. We would make spicy & tangy summer-y foods and dishes in the middle of a blizzard. We’d make warm and comforting soup, chili, and stew. We would sit down on Sunday afternoons and brainstorm our meals and recipe ideas for the week and then go shopping for ingredients.

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So why do I do this? Why do I love creating recipes?

Reason 1:

It helps me battle something I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember. I have had a somewhat mild eating disorder since I was 12. As soon as I went through puberty, my perception of myself changed. My body was different, I wasn’t as “small” as everybody else at school (or maybe I was but I just couldn’t see it).

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I told myself that it was all happening because of what I ate. At 12, who is watching what they eat? I certainly wasn’t, but I was telling myself mean things and making myself feel bad and question what I “had done” afte the fact. It is so weird for me to admit that to myself. I even just told myself, “No, you don’t have an eating disorder.” Honestly though, I do. I’ve always felt like eating and my body image were directly related.

So what does this have to do with The Cultivated Theorems? Well, creating recipes gives me confidence in what I eat. Cooking gives me confidence in my body image – as weird as it sounds. I know exactly what I am making and I can make it as indulgent or as healthy (or a perfect blend of both) as I like.

I am also incredibly proud of the food I eat – which my 16 year old self would have never eversaid. She would have said “why did you eat nachos at the football game”, even though everyone else did too. Or “why did you go with your dad to that fast food restaurant and eat that”, instead of realizing I just wanted to spend time with my dad. Or realizing I was overweight when I was in college and blaming it on all of those times I shouldn’t have done things like go out to eat with people I loved. I regretted getting excited about church potlucks and drinking vanilla diet coke. But you know what? Those things made me SO happy. My sisters and I would get DOWN at church potlucks and we loved every minute of it, including the moments to this day were we look back and laugh at how much we all love food. You can read more about my self-love discovery and story here

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Now, my whole family & all of my friends ask me to cook for and with them. Cooking and making food is such a huge part of my life now and it has helped me deal with my self-image in more ways that I can probably fathom at this point.

Reason 2:

Cooking is a happy medium. What do I mean by that? Well, creativity and logic thrive in my kitchen.

I grew up in an extremely creative household. All of my family is artistic and musically inclined. They are really funny, too (which is definitely a sign of creativity). I took piano lessons, I loved making paper dolls by hand, I was always drawing at school, and I was in band.

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If you haven’t read much of my blog, you might not know that I have a Bachelor’s in Mathematics. I chose this because I was simply in love with it. I got so excited when I was learning Calculus in high school. It wasn’t always natural for me, but it always felt like where I needed to be and what I always needed to be doing.

Cooking is the perfect blend of methodical problem solving, critical thinking, art, and general creativity.

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When I’m in the kitchen, I thread my artistic abilities and tendencies through rules, ideas, theories, and mediums that are used in logical proofs. Cooking feels like a big mathematical proof that is limitless and can be approached in so many different ways. And sometimes, the vegan spin on it makes it seem like one of those math problems at the end of the assignment that are more challenging than the rest.

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All of that being said, cooking is something I don’t think I could ever stray away from. Yes, I take breaks sometimes, and yes, I eat out sometimes. Yes, I buy frozen pre-made foods, too. But intentionally creating and making food feels like something that helps me utilize the best parts of me. I get to create, problem solve, and take care of myself – all at the same time.

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P.S. many of these photos are my own,  but the really pretty ones are all from AB Photography, who extremely talented photographers in SE Minnesota.

Tell Me:

Why do you love cooking?
Does it have a sentimental value for you?
Let me know in the comments below.
And please let me know if you have any questions or want to chat about all of this!
You can comment or send me a private email at thecultivatedtheorems@gmail.com

A Recipe for Trigonometry

Creating & developing recipes reminds me a lot of something I did back in high school Pre-Calculus.

In short, we were given a bunch of identities and we had to use them together to make something equal something else.

They were called trigonometric identities – and we had to use them like puzzle pieces. It was difficult at first, not going to lie.

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There were a lot of failed attempts. There were a lot of times I thought I was on the right track and realized halfway through that I was headed in the wrong direction. I had to start all over again from square one.

Creating recipes is A LOT like solving these equations. I start with ingredients. I lay them all out, and I think, ‘How can I use these to make ­­­­_______?’

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I consider all of the possibilities and ways these ingredients can go together. I think of all of the ways I can utilize cooking, mixing, and manipulating. How can I chop, dice, heat, chill, etc.

The possibilities are endless – and it’s really exciting! However, it can also be extremely overwhelming. The fact that there are so many ways to tackle and create the recipe makes me question:

“What is the best and simplest way I could do this?”
“Which would require minimal effort?”
“How could I use the least amount of ingredients?”
“How can I make this easy for people to understand?”

Once I figure out what I want to do & how I will do it – I have to begin the process. I have to test it out and see if my ingredients + process will actually perform well together and will give me a satisfying food in the end.

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Sometimes, it works out perfectly.

I only have to prepare it once, photograph it, and get it ready for the blog because it tastes great and I feel confident that others will enjoy, too!

Other times, it’s a disaster!

I have to stop halfway through and start over. I have to re-evaluate what‘s going on, what I want the end product to be, and create a new game-plan.

In the end, I finish everything up and I am satisfied with how I used the ingredients, the process and steps for the recipe, and of course, the end product is delicious!

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So what does this have to do with Trigonometry?

EVERYTHING. Equating Trig Functions feels the same way creating recipes feels.

The frustration, the creativity, the rigor, the requirement to start over halfway through because of failure, the satisfaction at the end – it is all there.

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Here’s an example of this type of trig equation.

If you have difficulty following along – just remember – it’s like making up a recipe!

I start with some givens – which are referred to as “trig identities” – like ingredients.

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I have to use these identities together to prove that two things are equal.

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At the end, once I figure out the best, simplest way to solve the puzzle (again there are TONS of possibilities to tackle this equation), I have a clean, neat answer – so satisfying!

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Tell Me:

Have you ever created a recipe before? Did you feel these same emotions and go about it this way – that is, like a puzzle?

Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your input!

There aren’t enough STEM related posts about food (are there any?).

It can answer the age-old question math students are always asking – “When am I ever going to have to use this?”

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