Photo: Fresh Pasta with Basil and Tomatoes

When I was thinking about becoming vegetarian, over 10 years ago, like many others, I turned to the internet. I went down a lot of internet “rabbit holes”, I mean A LOT. As I explored all things plant-based, I had to reel it back to reality. A lot of what I was reading online kept pointing to one undeniable truth. In order to eat vegetarian food that I’d like, I was going to have to try… cooking it myself.

At this point, I was used to ordering out, picking up lunch plates or going through drive-thrus. I was not interested in cooking whatsoever, no thank you. Luckily the internet also brought Down to Earth into my life. I rejoiced to learn that the store had a full-service deli. I could just buy food from the Down to Earth and I’d be set! Hooray! But eating only at Down to Earth for breakfast, lunch and dinner just isn’t practical. In between classes and working late shifts as a server, I just couldn’t get to Down to Earth all the time. I ended up eating a lot of cereal and instant oatmeal for dinner. I bought microwave friendly meals in Down to Earth’s freezer section and ate those when I could. All in all, it was pretty easy but I grew bored eating the same thing over and over again. Being in the service industry, I had lots of friends who were chefs and they were whipping up amazing looking dishes left and right. While I enjoyed eating my frozen samosas and pizzas, I began to feel an urge to go beyond pressing buttons and got the idea that maybe I should actually cook something! I figured it was time to get over my indifference (or maybe fear) towards cooking.

I went back to my trusty ole internet browser and searched for super easy vegetarian recipes. At the time, my apartment didn’t have a proper kitchen. I had a toaster oven, a hot pot, and a microwave. I looked for recipes using those as my parameters and was initially skeptical that I’d find anything. But as you may often find, if you ask the internet, it will provide. If I thought I went down an internet “rabbit hole” before, it was nothing compared to the cooking blogosphere out there. I took the plunge and starting cooking a few things. Even with my very limited means, I managed to make a particularly good Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup). I thought to myself, “Wow, maybe cooking’s not too bad”. After finally moving into an apartment with a real kitchen, I cooked even more, growing a little more confident with each recipe completed.

I started watching a lot of cooking shows and tried even more recipes. Deciding to go for something big, I decided to make a lasagna. I went to the Down to Earth Pearlridge location to buy my ingredients. My cashier looked at my purchases and asked if I was making lasagna. I told her that it was going to be my first time. Her face lit up and she went down a long litany of suggestions. I should try this cheese instead of this one because it’d melt better, perhaps I’d like a marinara sauce with a little more zing? I should check out Down to Earth’s homemade lasagna recipe online. I couldn’t write down her tips fast enough. I went home and made a pretty fantastic tasting lasagna. I went back and struck up another conversation with another team member about making my own vegetarian ramen – my favorite food of all time – and what do you know, I went home and made a yummy dish. My first ramen since I became vegetarian. It was kinda life-changing.

Since then, slowly but surely, I’ve increased my cooking knowledge and confidence a little bit at a time.  If you’re unsure about cooking like I was, start small – I survived with just a toaster oven and a hot pot for quite a long time – and ask lots of questions! When I started working at Down to Earth, I started helping with cooking classes and I asked A LOT of questions and learned a lot! Somehow, I eventually started teaching cooking classes myself. When I catch up with old friends, they can’t believe it. Me, the girl who didn’t know how to warm up canned soup without burning it, was teaching cooking classes! Now, after I teach a cooking class, I can see a few students who are hesitant to ask questions, perhaps they’re afraid of looking stupid or aren’t sure how to ask their question. I try to encourage them to ask away, that no question is silly. Their questions are why Down to Earth holds cooking classes in the first place! It’s one thing to see a recipe online, it’s a whole other story when you get to see it cooked in front of you and most importantly, get to taste it.

Nowadays, I try to keep it simple at home but have recently started the “dangerous” hobby of making my own pasta noodles from scratch. I never would’ve gotten to this point without a little help from the Down to Earth cashier’s advice with my very first lasagna.  There’s something inherently satisfying about cooking your own food. The time and care it takes to cook something really changes profoundly how you look at food. Even simple food like a grilled cheese sandwich is transformative once you’ve made one yourself.

For you cooking novices out there, Down to Earth offers a wide range of cooking classes… just check out our Events page here. We’ll be waiting for you and your questions! Happy cooking!