I was reading through the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine the other day when I saw an ad that caught my eye. The ad was for Swanson, but what caught my eye was the words, “Why I Cook.” The ad included various reasons like, “to feel like an artist”, “to feed my creativity”, and “to unleash my inner chef.” I have been thinking about my reasons for the past few days, so tonight I sat down with a cup of Earl Grey tea and decided to write about it.
As I was thinking, I realized that the answer to the question has changed dramatically over the years. Since this is a blog post and not a biography, I will stick with the present. The first reason is the most obvious one: I love food. I love everything about food. I love the flavors, the appearance, the smells, the textures. I read about food. I write about food. I watch food shows on television. In fact, there is a cooking show on in the background as I write this.
Another reason is that cooking is a creative outlet for me. While there are times when I have to resort to a conventional meal, more often than not I find a way to introduce a creative element to whatever I’m making. The ideal situation is when I can create a recipe from scratch like the Italian Mac & Cheese I made a couple of months ago. Sometimes, I mix and match recipes like I did to get my chili recipe. Other times I modify a recipe I see in a magazine or online like I did with my Asian Pulled Pork. Even nights like last night when dinner was almost entirely made up of “convenience” foods, I do what I can.
Last night, the main dish came courtesy of Butoni. I opted for a combination of Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli and Wild Mushroom Angliotti. The sauce was Del Grosso from a jar, but I doctored it with white wine, red pepper flakes and some olive oil. I also made some Pillsbury biscuits, but when they came out of the oven, I brushed them with a mix of butter and olive oil I had flavored with fresh garlic. It could have been a dull meal, but I started with some good ingredients and then added a bit of creativity.
Tonight was definitely a dull meal, so the less said about that the better.
Cooking is also something I share with my wonderful wife. As I have said in previous posts, my wife is an incredible cook in her own right. I believe you have seen me wax rhapsodic about her meat loaf. Her peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies are the stuff of legend. I could write an entire post just about those cookies. She makes a brisket that takes two days to prepare. It is so good that I would run out of adjectives before I could adequately describe it. She also loves to eat as much as I do, so no matter who is cooking, we know we are in for a treat.
The most important reason why I cook? Cooking a meal is a small victory. Even when so many things have been taken away from me by illness, cooking is one vestige of the person I was. It may take me longer to plan, shop and execute a meal, but preparing a meal remains in my bag of tricks. The joy I get from cooking and eating good food remains as strong as ever. Cooking is a bulwark against the emotional and spiritual toll chronic illness can take. No matter what else is going on in my life, cooking is always there. There is always another meal waiting in the wings for me to plan and cook.
I will likely revisit this subject in the future since I still have some stories to tell, but for now…