Did you eat yet?, Honorable Mention, 21st Annual Essay Contest

by Shar Z.

“Did you eat yet?” or “Are you hungry yet?”  are two phrases I hear frequently since I was a child.  Is cooking a creative outlet ?

The art of cooking offers nourishment and fuel for our body.  Often times, the idea of cookingi is a natural motor skill for the fearless.  Needless to say, cooking involves a talent for :  creating or tweaking recipes, ingredient knowledge, safe knife practices, calculation comprehension, ability to analyze food flavors, as well as a food stylist. An open mind to learn and bounce back from lack of success is an advantage to widen a creative and thriving mind-set. One will try many recipes and different ingredients, until the perfect bites are created. All this requires a patience and creativity.

Coming from a single family home, at a very young age, my dad worked most often at two jobs.  I found myself having family dinners with my aunt and family.  Most often, our elders created dishes from family memories, storytelling, hand notes or a handed down cookbook. Meal time around the table seems a forgotten time in which families enjoyed togetherness.  I looked forwarded to cooking tips especially from the older generation, especially from my dad, grandmother and aunt.  Cooking meals brought our family to a single location where we shared stories and moments together.  It was then,  I realized creating meals are an expression of love,  comfort and care.

During my elementary to Jr high school days, I started to have slumber parties with  my closest friends.  Days before, I created a breakfast menu in my mind. I shared my written grocery list with my dad and he somehow made sure our home was  stocked for my slumber party.

After a late night of make-up experimenting on each other, boy crush chitter-chatter,  and celebrity infatuation dreaming, we’d fall asleep on the loft in our one car garage.  When the sun was starting to light through our backyard pine trees, I quietly tip toe and climbed down the attached wooden ladder, then walked out of the garage to the back door of our home and into our tiny kitchen.

I recall my dad would bring out the stove top griddle before leaving for work.  It was rather heavy, so I was grateful.  For me, it was time to play a breakfast chef and create the most amazing breakfast (in my mind)) consisting of at least: fluffy sweet cream pancakes, cheesey and buttery scrambled eggs, toast with jam, sausage links, bacon strips, fruit juice and milk.  It was our type of a grand buffet and they loved it.   As an only child, I looked forward to creating these special memories with my friends.  It really brought joyfulness which ignited interest for simple fulfilling creativity.

During Jr. High,  “Cooking” was an option for a creative art class. This only contributed to my personal growth at an   ackward time of transitioning from adolescence to early teens. I learned the basics and appreciated the lessons. It kept me focused.

The times that followed, i continued creating the memories alongside my dad, family and friends. When I reflect at those times, it simply brings fond memories.

When “Food Network” first aired during late 1994, featuring home chefs, food industry experts and celebrities, it was the next chapter in my visual culinary escapades. The show opened my eyes wider and interest to attempt regional to international recipes. Perfect or not, I love the challenges.

To help fortify my inner secret “chef”, I watched “Food Network”, PBS cooking shows, YouTube as well as visiting local food festivals, farmers markets, taking dessert classes, visiting family u-pick farms, participating in cook challenges and cooking hot meals for families in transitional residences. These  activities keep my interest focused on happy living so I can simply keep my mind inspired.

An extra bonus is Cooking permits me to travel to numerous countries “dish by dish” as  I feel uneasy to travel far away. It’s also a great conversation starter when meeting other foodies, gourmands or secret inner chefs, like me.

All in all, this appreciation for creating meals or recipes has assisted with the strict CKD diet. As a patient, we are reminded from our Dieticians of the healthier ingredients to help sustain our unique lives.  I’m reminded that recipes are  basic guidelines and can be flexible for our taste and health needs. We can all be our own dream chef and cook comfortably for our home so “Did you eat yet?”



Shar Z. started with hemodialysis in-center 12+ years ago. She has fundraised, volunteered, participated on the Kidney Walk planning committee for the National Kidney Foundation. Shar enjoys spending moments with family, glamping and playing fetch with her fur-baby, as well as researching recipes and creating them, along with a few personal twists. She hopes to create a memoir of recipes for family, friends and home-chefs to enjoy. She resides in the beautiful Silicon Valley in N. California.

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