After reading a post from Jenn at JennCuisine, reading numerous posts from Amy at Cooking with Amy, and wading through the comments over at Michael Ruhlman’s blog, I wished to really delve down and think about why I cook, and why food is such a never-ending passion for me. But I wanted to give it more than a quickly-crafted response; I instead mulled over this topic for several days. (I even took notes as thoughts came to me!)
So, why do I cook?
I suppose we can start at the beginning. I mention in my About page that I enjoyed cooking, even as a little girl. I was hungry, I loved to eat, and making things was fun! But truthfully, a lot of things were fun at that age (roller skating, coloring books, catching bugs and placing them in glass jars) that, while still potentially fun, don’t keep my interest. Neither does sewing, or painting, or art – my husband can testify to my countless attempts at picking up a “hobby”. On the other hand, cooking always attracts; it’s a never-ending challenge, a game that can’t be won, but only played again and again, with infinite variations on the theme and outcome. I wonder why. In a lifetime of fleeting hobbies and interests, why has cooking dug its claws in so deeply that I can hardly define myself without referring to the art of food?
I’ve always cooked and experimented to some degree, and always loved watching cooking shows. I fondly remember watching Julia Child, Justin Wilson, and Martin Yan on PBS while growing up. I even participated in a county youth show, winning 2nd place with a sour cream chocolate cake, when I was in high school. Yet I truly feel that the “on” switch was hit around late 2007. It was a difficult time for our family. Our foundation and our lives were deeply shaken. At that time, I started to spend more time in the kitchen. I could make sense of things while cooking. Every time I whip egg whites, they become frothy and stiff. If I heat a pan of oil and then place food in it, that food will sizzle. It was science – and it was something I could understand. Around that same time, I received a wonderful gift from my parents – an amazing set of Mundial knives. Now, I could chop, slice, julienne, and mince with precision and grace. The entire process – prepping, cooking, plating – it all was soothing and relaxing. It was music to my soul; it was therapy. And as I slowly built my skills, the confidence and trust surrounding my life was building as well.
Now, more than 2 years later, I cannot imagine not cooking.
Cooking is still very much therapy for me. When I’m happy, I cook. When I’m sad, I cook. When I need to unwind, you guessed it – I cook. I can allow myself to be creative in the kitchen. I can use my hands. I can build, shape, create, and taste. In my world full of spreadsheets, analysis, rules and regulations, this is a wonderful treasure.
But even beyond the act of cooking, I perceive the world through cuisine. No matter where you are, the act of sharing a meal brings people together. Culture, history, geography – they are all connected and intertwined with food. It’s all at once humbling, welcoming, and eye-opening.
Along that same note, I love the comraderie that food brings. I love to share with others. I express my appreciation for them through cooking and food. I love that I can share a comforting favorite, an exciting new adventure, and a balanced meal with my family and friends. It might seem a bit self-serving, but I do love to experience the pleasure of someone else enjoying my meals. Gluten intolerance has only served to challenge me further in this regard – I now love to share gluten-free foods with those that long for the foods they once loved. I wish to bring those foods to them once again – in an uncompromising, gluten-free form!
Of course, there are benefits to my love for cooking and food. It’s cheaper to cook at home. I can prepare healthier, nourishing meals. Many times, it’s even faster than eating out. As a result of my love for cooking, I’ve learned to cook with the seasons, connecting with my body, its nourishment, and the Earth. I’ve also had the fortune of meeting many wonderful people that share similar passions, both through local farms and through the world of food blogging. I am continually amazed and astounded by the community and friendship. Most importantly, cooking was a catalyst in the ability to strengthen bonds with my family. The passion for food and cooking translated to a passion for life – I felt as though as time passed, I came to understand and appreciate each gift my family has given me. Of course, cooking wasn’t the sole reason for the growth and happiness that eminates from our home now, but for me, it definitely played a part. I couldn’t be more at peace with life and family, or more thankful for the gifts I’ve received.
So why do I cook? Cooking is my outlet; my lifeline. I will never stop exploring, and I will never stop learning. I connect with my family, I find spirituality, and I connect with the world.
Through cooking, I find myself.