Why You Should Learn to Cook in Your 20’s

You’ve got the good job. You live in a nice apartment. You are able to move out of your parents’ house. You’re lucky enough to consider yourself to be pretty independent and self-sufficient in your 20’s, which isn’t so easy to come by these days. However, have you learned how to cook? Can you feed yourself without needing to go to a restaurant or to order from Domino’s?

I consider that being able to learn how to cook is one of the most important skills any young adult should have a good proficiency in by the time they turn 30. You don’t need to be on the level of Anthony Bourdain or Emeril Lagasse but you should be able to know a decent amount of recipes and be able to cook yourself a couple of homemade meals each week. There are a number of good reasons as to why it’s important to learn how to cook in your 20’s and I’ll cover a few of them in this post.

1.) You’ll save money.

Regardless of where you’re living in the world, it’s often the case that buying groceries from the local market or supermarket and cooking meals for yourself will be less expensive than going out to eat for lunch or dinner or even both meals. The costs really add up after a while from eating out all of the time or from ordering a lot of meals to be delivered to your door. In your 20’s, many people are trying to save up money for graduate school, or to buy a car or to lease an apartment so if you’re able to buy food for yourself and then cook it, you’re way ahead of the game and you’ll probably save a good amount of money each month. Any kind of savings that you can create in your 20’s will make a sizable impact down the road and cooking your own meals is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on your personal budget each month.

2.) It’s healthier for you.

Let’s be honest: ordering out or eating out at a restaurant are not the healthiest options to do repeatedly. While there are healthy options out there, they are usually the exception and not the rule. Eating a takeout pizza with extra cheese from Domino’s is simply not as preparing a fresh salad from scratch for your dinner. Unless you go to a higher-end restaurant, a lot of restaurants these days use a lot of sugar, salt, or other preservatives that can lead you to put on some extra weight if you’re not careful. Knowing how to cook forces you to create your own daily diet without having any outside influence. You’ll be more responsible for your intake of different foods and learning how to properly balance your diet with fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, meats, etc. This is a skill that is better to be learned in your 20’s so that it can be a healthy habit that can stay with you for the rest of your life. You’re making a conscious choice every time you prepare and cook your own food and that’s a great skill to have.

3.) You’ll become more independent and self-reliant.

Being comfortable with your cooking skills and knowing that you’ll never go hungry or rely on others to cook your food is a great thing for your self-esteem. The confidence that you’ll gain as you get better at cooking is something that can transfer over to your parts of your life. It’s a skill that you can share with other people whether it’s your friends, your parents or other members of your family. A lot of your 20’s is learning how to function as an individual who is independent from other people and one of the best ways to do that is to learn how to cook a good meal. It may take time and a lot of effort but the rewards will be ever present throughout your life. You can make other people in your life happier and healthier by cooking for them and they’ll appreciate the fact that you can take care of yourself in the kitchen.

4.) It’s easier now than ever.

With modern technology like the stove, the gas oven, and the many utensils and kitchenware you can buy for pretty cheap, learning how to cook is easier now than ever. In addition, any aspiring cook has the entirety of the Internet at their disposal. Whether it’s learning the basics for the first time or trying out a new recipe, there is a limitless amount of information out there that can help you achieve your cooking goals. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that can walk you through a recipe step by step and there are thousands of unique recipes that you can look up on a moment’s notice through Google that can make cooking more fun and creative.

Centuries ago, cooking food was much more of a daily ordeal with the average meal taking a full day to prepare but due to the advent of modern technology, it really is easier now than ever. For example, I learned of a website recently called Blue Apron, which actually delivers all of the fresh ingredients for the different recipes you want to make without you leaving your apartment or house to scavenge for the ingredients at the local market. There are also a number of companies out there such as Whole Foods that can deliver all of your groceries to your door making it even easier and more cost effective to cook your own meals.

5.) It makes you more creative.

With thousands of recipes to choose from and with different ingredients to mix and match with your favorite foods, cooking is really an art just like painting or music. You can experiment as much as you want and really tailor your meal to your own preferences. When you order food at a restaurant, it’s really up to the chef’s own taste on how he puts your meal together. When you cook for yourself, you’re giving back control to yourself. You can work with your hands and you can slice and dice as you please.

While you may struggle at first with getting the recipes down to a science, you’ll keep getting better and better the more you practice and that’s what makes it so fun. Even if you burn the chicken or undercook the spaghetti, you can learn from your mistakes and know what to do better the next time. Cooking is a skill that really utilizes both your mind and your body. While it takes a lot of effort and time to master, the results are often delicious.

Put away the Chinese takeout menu, and put that apron on. It’s time to take these reasons into consideration as you begin your cooking career. Even if you’re a single guy or gal living in the heart of the city with restaurants abound, you should still give yourself the joy of cooking. You’ll thank yourself later when you have a wife or children to cook for at home and you can put together a meal that’s more than just scrambled eggs or spaghetti. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to make myself dinner.

Colombian Fruits and Juices

paloquemao-bogota-colombia-fruit
“So many choices to choose from, so little time.”

One of the joys of living here in Colombia is the diverse and plentiful selection of fruits to choose from. The choices are quite abundant and it is an integral part of the culture to imbibe in a cold and tasty fruit juice at the end of a long day.

As I mentioned before in my blog post titled, ‘The Heat Is On’, one of the best ways to deal with the heat and humidity is to cool down with a delicious fruit juice. It is also much healthier and refreshing than having soda or coffee instead. Over the past two months, I have done a great job of sampling the different choices of fruit juices and which ones I have a preference for. I’ve listed below the common fruit juices available here on the Atlantic coast and have also highlighted my personal favorites. The one juice that I have not tried thus far is the ‘Zanahoria’ or Carrot juice but I’m willing to give it a shot during the rest of my time here.

I hope that for those of you who plan on traveling to Colombia in the future will consider this ‘fruit juice’ list as a helpful guide to you. It can be a very hard choice to make when you’re at the ‘Fruteria’ and there are ten choices available but you’re not sure which one will be most refreshing.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices detailed below. Colombian fruit juices are freshly blended together rather than squeezed as is the case in the U.S. and elsewhere. In addition, the fruits are mixed with water or milk (smoothies) and topped off with a little bit of sugar. What results is a very fresh and tasty drink to keep you cool during those hot days and humid nights. The Colombian people take their fruit juices seriously and so do I.

  • Lulo: Orange on the outside with green and yellow pulp on the inside, Lulo has a citrus flavor that is very sour to eat. However, jugo de lulo, mixed with some sugar, is perhaps the most popular juice here on the Atlantic coast. Also known as Naranjilla in other parts of Latin America, the fruit is related to the tomatillo and some people would describe its flavor as somewhere between green apple, and lime. It’s up there with being one of my favorite juices here.
  • Guanabana: Another one of Colombia’s most popular fruit juices. Its’ thorny green skin is filled with white filling and black seeds, similar in appearance to the fruit known as the cherimoya. Its juice has a creamy flavor with hints of strawberry and pineapple, and goes well with water, milk, and sugar.
  • Tomate de Arbol: The ‘tomato of the tree’ in English is an egg-shaped fruit with a yellow filling that is distinct from the typical red tomato that you would find in the supermarket. It has one of the most unique flavors I’ve ever tasted, and is similar to a mix of passion fruit and tomato, and supposedly has many health benefits. I enjoy its unique flavor and its refreshing qualities.
  • Granadilla: This fruit is a close relative of the well-known passion fruit. On the outside, it looks like a small orange or mandarina, but when it is cracked open, it contains a gelatinous pulp filled with black seeds. The flavor is similar to that of the passion fruit, but sweeter, and the seeds are easily disposable by spitting them out amidst the delicious juices. When turned into a fruit juice, it’s pulpy yet satisfying on a hot and humid day.
  • Mamoncillo: On the outside, this fruit looks like a lime, but when cracked open, it reveals a pinky-orange flesh similar to that of a lychee. The flavor is a mix of the tartness of a lime with the mild sweetness of the lychee. When blended into a juice, it looks like an iced tea and has a light orange/beige color.
  • Maracuya: Another part of the passion fruit family along with the Granadilla. It has an oval-shape, can look a bit wrinkly, and makes for a delicious juice or ice cream flavor as well. Maracuya is a great source of Vitamin C and is also known to be a natural sedative too. It also is known to aid digestion of food in the stomach. Extremely similar to the look of orange juice, Maracuya has a yellow-orange color when turned into a juice.
  • Gulupa: A cousin of the aforementioned Maracuya and another passion fruit. It has a dark purple skin that becomes wrinkled when it is ripe for eating or drinking. Along with Maracuya, it has plenty of Vitamin C and can help ease stress and tension in the body. When blended into a juice, it has a yellow color and looks very similar to orange juice.
  • Zapote: One of Colombia’s toughest and most durable fruits. It can grow very fast and is resistant to heavy wind and drought conditions. Zapote is full of minerals and antioxidants and can help with ailments ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to gastritis. It is very high in fiber so be careful not to eat too many as it does act as a natural laxative. Like other fruits here, it goes well with sugar and has a pink-orange color in juice/smoothie form.
  • Borojo: Known to be a ‘Love Juice’, and possessing some aphrodisiac qualities, this juice has been well-known for centuries and can act like a natural Viagra if you’re in the mood. Nutritionists have claimed that ‘Borojo’ is one of the most nutrient-rich fruits in the world can help combat malnutrition. When mixed and blended into a fruit juice, it gives off a dark to light brown color.
  • Mora: Known as ‘Blackberry’ in English, this is my favorite juice to have here in Colombia. Rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and nutrients, it is the most refreshing drink I’ve encountered thus far. I also enjoy the dark red color of the juice and enjoy it after a long day outside. While not an exotic fruit or drink, it gets the job done and I enjoy the simplicity yet refreshing qualities of the juice itself.

While I only listed ten fruits / fruit juices to indulge in, there are over dozens of unique fruits here in Colombia to try out. Some of the most exotic and sought-after fruits reside here in Colombia and you usually can’t find them anywhere else. A lot of the fruits I mentioned in this post have great health benefits and are packed with nutrients. Different than the apple, banana, and grape, these ‘superfruits’ can cure ailments, keep you well, and give you more energy. If you decide to ever visit Colombia, eat the fruits and try the fruit juices. I promise you won’t regret it.

The Importance of Community

“Be part of a group. Life is better that way.”

“Being apart of a community is what makes you happy…not rising to the top and sequestering yourself from community.” This quote is from one of my favorite podcasts, “Tangentially Speaking” with Dr. Christopher Ryan. During this show, he conducted an interview with travel host and producer, Jonathan Legg of ‘The Road Less Traveled’ who is the author of the quote above. I was listening to the podcast while I was driving through my hometown when the subject of ‘community’ came to the forefront of their interview. The two of them, who are both very intelligent and worldly men, explained to the listeners how chasing money, fame, and fortune doesn’t ultimately make us happy as human beings.

I absolutely agree with this assessment made on the podcast and believe that while possessions, money, and owning property can create happiness in the short-term, long-term happiness and fulfillment can only come from strong bonds with your friends, family, and community. Dr. Ryan and Mr. Legg also mentioned in one segment of the podcast how isolating oneself while traveling, and staying in hotels does not create a great life experience. I couldn’t agree more having stayed in nice hotels, hostels, and guesthouses during my own travels.

While one could be very comfortable and relaxed in a hotel, you won’t meet other travelers and potential friends as easily compared to when you’re staying in a cheaper hostel that’s in the city center. Dr. Ryan and Mr. Legg concluded in their discussion on communal living that the best way to live is to have your own space to eat and sleep, but to live in close enough proximity to others nearby that you can still have a sense of community and sharing without being isolated. I believe that compared to recent generations and even further back, the idea of community is starting to weaken and become less important which is in direct contrast to human nature and true happiness.

Harvard Political Scientist and Professor, Robert D. Putnam, was one of the first people to bring to national attention the change and decline in communities with his book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” He makes the argument that people have been interacting with each other less and less over the past few decades. Instead of going out to socialize in public through bowling leagues, picnics, sport clubs, religious organizations, etc., more and more people are opting out and have been expanding the amount of time spent using technology as a substitute.

With the ability to have groceries, electronics, books, restaurant food, etc. delivered right to one’s doorstep in major cities and towns now, people have less and less motivation to leave the house. Telecommuting and ‘working from home’ have become more popular as well making ‘office work’ and ‘happy hours’ less obligatory. Social and traditional forms of media have exploded in the sheer amount of offerings whether its’ through websites, TV channels, and/or digital gadgets.

When it comes to community life, religious and social organizations have often formed the backbone and glue that holds people together. However, many different news media outlets have reported that attendance at churches and synagogues have been taking a downward spiral. A growing percentage of Americans are identifying themselves as ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ when it comes to their religious beliefs. Personally, I have no problem with our generation being an irreligious one but I do think it’s tough to replicate that type of community within other types of social organizations.

In addition to the close bonds between neighbors that shared religious beliefs can bring, it can provide a sense of belonging just like many other social groups. Beyond religious affiliated groups, membership in long-standing organizations such as the Boy Scouts and other volunteer organizations is also on the decline as well.

Newsweek.com highlighted this trend illustrated this disturbing trend with official numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “In recent years, the percentage of Americans volunteering has dwindled and is now at its lowest level in a decade. Last year, In 2014, the official volunteer rate was 25.4 percent, or 62.6 million people, compared with 29 percent of the population in 2003, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Official statistics on volunteer rates go back only to 2002.)”

Recently, one of the pillars of my community that I was born into and grew up with shuttered its’ doors last year. My local synagogue where I was Bar Mitzvah’d, went to Shabbat services, and celebrated the Jewish holidays was not able to fund itself due to overall lack of membership and decided to merge with another still functional congregation. This was disappointing for me to hear about because I have a lot of fond memories of that place and the people I met there. It was more than just about religion but it was also a gathering place for Jewish residents of the local area to come together and get to know one each other better and form bonds of friendship. While members of the former synagogue have moved on to another synagogue nearby, it’s not the same as it once was and it’s difficult to integrate oneself into a new community.

This is a trend that seems to be replicating itself across the country. Most Americans don’t know their neighbor next door like they used to and beyond the local school PTA of the local town or city, there’s not much anymore to bring people together. The increasing atomization and isolation of people is worrying for me to hear about. However, I am quite positive about the power and spread of the internet to bring people from different backgrounds and beliefs all over the world together.

While it’s not perfect, you can still remain connected to old friends, former classmates, past roommates, etc. through social networking. Instead of bowling leagues, sports clubs, the local YMCA, now we have Meetup.com and Groupspaces. As technology continues to advance, the meaning of ‘community’ will continue to change and adapt to the times. However, we as human beings must not forget the importance of being apart of a community and how much it means to our mental health and overall happiness.

References:

http://www.saddleback.edu/faculty/agordon/documents/Bowling_Alone.pdf

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/03/volunteering-america-decline-272675.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/17/us-usa-boyscouts-idUSKBN0KQ05O20150117

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