Why do I cook? Wait! Before you click along, I promise this isn’t a whine akin to “why do I bother when my kids won’t eat it anyway?!” No, this post is more about why I do bother, even when I know my kids or husband or guests or whomever give me that raised-eyebrow “whatever” kind of look. You know the one, right?!
So, why do I cook?
I cook because I can and because I want to. Thank you to Pam Anderson, Jamie Oliver, home cooks who blog, and so many others for demystifying cooking. Despite the message that’s broadcast by vast empires of chef gurus out there who constantly launch new lines of cookware, equipment and gadgetry, cooking should not be hard or intimidating. Cooking is not hard; all you need is basic kitchen, a few utensils and ingredients, and the ability to read and follow simple directions. What I can create in my own kitchen with five ingredients is infinitely better than something from a chain restaurant that contains ingredients that are more science than they are food.
I cook because I know. I know what’s in mass-produced, chain restaurant food and boxed or frozen “meals”–and what’s NOT in it–and I know that I can prepare better tasting, more nutritious, more economical meals, on the whole. I think–I think A LOT–about food: what’s in it, where it comes from, what is nutrient-rich, how it tastes, how to prepare it, who at my table would eat it. Having thought about those whats and whys, I could not in good conscience surrender decisions on all of those questions, on behalf of my family, to a corporate menu-maker on any more than a very limited basis.
I cook because my kids are watching ,and I want them to grow up knowing that anyone can create in the kitchen and that pretty packages on grocery shelves don’t always translate into great food that’s good for you.
I cook because it’s the way I show I care. I’m not so great with the heartfelt words of support beautifully written in a handmade card. I’m not so great with traveling at a moment’s notice to celebrate, support, lend a hand. I’m not so great with throwing a lavish party with a theme and fantastic decorations and a guest list that forgets no one. But your favorite dinner? Or a box of cookies? Or an apple pie?? Oh, I’m SO there. THAT I can do.
I cook because cooking is inspiring and creative and, for me, it’s the ultimate reflection of life: Working in the kitchen is like a microcosm of life. You pour your heart and your smarts into your creation. You follow the directions, what some know-it-all chef who authored a gem of a book or what hundreds of home cooks have lauded worked or didn’t work for them. Armed with those directions, you adapt your own circumstances–the freshness of the ingredients, the gas vs. electric range, the oven that runs hot, your focus and attention as the phone rings, you spill something, your children demand snacks or help in the bathroom. You deal with unforseens the best way you know how, the way your experience and your reading and your intuition have taught you. You improvise. You create. And while you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to end up with, you never really quite know until it’s there in front of you. That first bite might surprise, delight, or embarrass you; it might make you cringe, laugh, or smile. But you won’t know until you’ve given it all it you can; chances are it won’t look like the photo in the magazine or taste just as you’d imagined it would. So it is with anything in this life: the outcome is a combination of things we can control and things we can’t, along with a healthy dose of faith. That’s what I love about cooking: it challenges me to be smart, intuitive, flexible and creative and, when it’s 7 p.m. and we still haven’t eaten dinner, to make the best of whatever it is I’ve made.