Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Love to Cook

I really do love to cook. The Cooking Shop, hanging on my kitchen wall, is always Open at my house. If there is a stretch when I'm traveling or eating out a lot, I am delighted to get back into my kitchen when I return home. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating food I might not otherwise fix for myself. I love having more time during the day to explore or do projects. I love to have a good conversation over a dinner I haven't had to prepare. And I love to travel. But after some excellent restaurant meals or a wonderful trip, I can't wait to get back into the kitchen. Here are some of the reasons:

Let me be honest here: I love being in control--from deciding what I want to eat that evening, to buying the ingredients and preparing the food. If I’m hungry for pasta, I can choose to fix it.

But I also love the creativity involved in cooking. I love dreaming up a menu where the colors, textures and flavors work well with each other. I love imagining what the plate will look like with the food on it. I love choosing the dinner plate that best sets off the food. I love thinking about the best wine to go with the food.

I love eating good food and cooking for myself is the least expensive way to get it. For a long time when I was much younger, I couldn’t afford to go out to dinner very often and there was no choice but to cook. I figured that as long as I had to cook, I might as well have some fun with it and make it interesting. I still value the economy of cooking at home.

I love using up leftovers in imaginative ways, looking for recipes that use the little bits and pieces of fruits and veggies we all have in our fridges.

I love trying new recipes, cuisines, techniques, and exotic ingredients. Like learning to cook with a pottery bram on the top of the stove. Early on in my cooking history, the part of me that loved learning got engaged and found in cooking a new and endlessly fascinating activity.

I love the challenge of cooking: figuring out the timing and the work flow. When do I need to start the preparation in order to get dinner on the table at 7:00? What is the most efficient and easy way to get the task accomplished? What can be made ahead? How can all the dishes come to the table at the same time?

I also like the challenge of dealing with food preferences, allergies, kids’ likes and dislikes, what’s available in my market and in season, the amount of time and money I have to spend, etc. I have to think really hard when someone can’t eat sugar, wheat, dairy products, eggs, or red meat. Coming up with a great dinner is exhilarating when faced with constraints—and there are always some constraints.

Mindful Cooking at FCCB
I love being in the kitchen, quiet and alone, slicing carrots. Cooking as meditation. It knits me up. Being in the present moment—particularly important when the task involves sharp knives.

Years ago I taught a Meditative Cooking class at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Fourteen of us gathered in the church kitchen and cooked dinner quietly. Only whispered questions about recipes were allowed. A hush would come over the kitchen. It was really quite marvelous.

I like cooking for small dinner parties and sharing good food with friends and family. I especially love the conversations that happen around a dinner table at home. I think home-cooked food nurtures these conversations.

I loved watching my kids grow up to appreciate home-cooked meals and good food. I must say they didn’t always share my definition of “good” and when they were little would end up eating cereal. But they have grown to be both good cooks and adventurous eaters.

I love eating by myself or with Katherine. I really care about what food I put on my plate and in my mouth. I want my dinners to be interesting, beautiful, colorful, and delicious. Sometimes complicated, sometimes simple. Both just fine.

So that's about it for me. What about you?

No comments:

Post a Comment