Becoming Veggie Heads and Learning to Cook

Moving to Ukraine and embracing the expatriate life has been a big change for us. Among the changes in our lifestyle include:

More freedom to fly throughout Europe.

Week-long breaks are frequent – and weekend breaks are a thing! Since moving to Kyiv, I have flown round-trip to Poland, Greece, Spain and England, and I arrived in Munich, Germany, this week for an extended house-sitting stay. Before we return to the United States for several weeks this summer, I anticipate taking at least three more round-trip flights around the continent.

I love the convenience, but this also means our carbon footprint is expanding exponentially, even though we’re no longer driving a car in our day-to-day lives and use public transportation instead.

Giving up the ability to recycle.

The garbage and recycling situation is really questionable at our apartment complex. Sometimes the recycling bins outside our complex are available, sometimes they are locked and sometimes they’re missing altogether. Everything appears to be co-mingled anyway. We’re so confused by whether recycling is available at our apartment complex that we gather all our glass jars and plastic bottles together at home, but we let our housekeeper take the garbage out so she can navigate the confusion.

Some expats tell me there is recycling in the city; others tell me there’s no such thing. I just don’t know. But in not knowing, I’m assuming we aren’t actually recycling anything.

An inability to participate in-person in meaningful causes.

With Donald Trump being elected into office, we were itching to do something – anything – to do our part in standing up to this horrifying political situation. We wanted to protest, march and be present. Obviously, that is impossible.

And so, besides making a couple phone calls and signing a lot of petitions, we have sat idly by, watching the U.S. unravel politically.


So what does this mean for us?

Cory and I have talked a lot about how, despite our minimal lifestyle and lack of private transportation, we are very much out of control when it comes to making a positive change for the earth. What could we do? What could we actually control?

Our food intake.

With the dawn of the new year, we officially became vegetarians again, something we’ve both done on and off throughout the years, but this time we’ve made the conscious choice to do our part to save the planet. Admittedly, we each enjoyed some fish and chips in London when we were there last week (how could we not?), but other than that, we’ve been meat-free for two months now.

This actually isn’t that hard for us. 

Cory, as you may already know, is a stellar cook. He enjoys cooking and he’s good at it. He experiments with food and it works. We eat like royalty all the time because my husband definitely knows his way around the kitchen. Plus, we now have easy access to great markets selling fresh produce every day of the week at a very reasonable cost.

I have never been a cook. I didn’t grow up with a tradition or culture of cooking, and that’s been just fine with me, but, if I’m going to be honest, it’s also a bit embarrassing. At 35-years-old, I was caught in an awkward position: I wanted to know how to cook, even just for knowing’s sake, but since I’d gone so long without knowing how, some people made it a ridiculously big deal any time I attempted making a meal.

I don’t want it to be a big deal. I just want to do it.

vegetarian meals

And so I am.

A couple years ago for Christmas, Cory bought me a series of online cooking classes through Foodist Kitchen that have taken me through the basics of how to cut produce, select spices, match flavors, saute vegetables and more. I started the class shortly after I received it, but got derailed when we decided to move, though I did start spending more time with Cory when he prepared meals.

Right now, I’m on my own, staying in Munich for most of March, pet-sitting for someone and taking a self-directed writing retreat. And, wouldn’t you know it, I’m cooking for myself.

I’ve got a bowl full of produce – onions, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes – and a selection of grains and spices. And it’s exciting. Early in the day, I think about what dinner might be, then I carve out some time in the afternoon to collect any necessary pending ingredients. It’s a bit of trial-and-error, but it’s rewarding.

I guess it’s true what they say: You can teach an old dog new tricks. It’s never to late to embrace a new skill or a new way of living.

I like knowing that, not only am I finally getting the hang of a fundamental and important skill by learning to cook, but together Cory and I are doing even just a small thing to hug the planet and keep it around a little bit longer.

2 Responses to “Becoming Veggie Heads and Learning to Cook”

  1. Jill

    I wondered if you ever followed through with the online cooking classes. Good for you!

    • JoAnna

      Yep! I’ve finished the courses, and Cory and I cook together on a frequent basis. We actually really enjoy experimenting with food, especially because we get so much fresh produce at a great price here.


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