I was reading a brilliant post the other day on All & Sundry - really, she's insanely talented, and if you aren't reading her - well, hop to it, already - and she brought up the subject of cooking. It's one that's near and dear to my heart, and one that I've been asked about quite a bit as of late, so I thought this would be a great time to expound.
See also: have insane writer's block.(And uber dry contact lenses, but that's beside the point.)
When I was about nine - I think, although I'm sure that someone who grew up with me might be able to correct me - my mom decided that we needed to learn to cook.It was around the time that my mom went back to work. Every Friday, my sisters and I rotated dinner detail. We were responsible for planning dinner, writing out a shopping list - and more importantly, remember every.single.ingredient, because Mom wasn't going to buy it if it wasn't on the list - make sure that the meal was balanced, cook and clean up after. I remember it being a LOT of fun. I also, weirdly, remember cooking much too often from the Kids International Cookbook, and I made an awful lot of a recipe called Scandinavian Beans. It started with Kidney Beans, had brown sugar added and a bunch of other stuff.
I remember my mom putting the kibosh on that recipe.
That cooking routine started a love of cooking for me. I took what used to be called Home Ec every year in High School just so I could cook - I hated to sew - and also, because I knew it would be an easy A. (I'm honest.) When I went to college, my first major was in culinary arts, and I completed two years of the program. (I later changed majors twice and then dropped out. I'm an ignoramus.)
I've loved to cook my entire life. When I worked as a nanny, I cooked for the family. When I married, I cooked for my husband. I cook for family, for friends, for strangers and for myself. I love to cook. I find it soothing to mix, to blend, to stir and create. I like to read recipes, I cut them out of magazines and plan entire meals around green beans. I find it rewarding to look in the pantry and create a meal from what appears to be nothing much.
Part of the reason I love to cook is because, conversely, I love to eat. I mean, I LOVE TO EAT. The melding of flavors on my tongue, the crisp of green salad and the tang of vinegar. The sweetness of frosting - oh, how I do love me some cake and frosting - the feel of a sweet HoneyCrisp apple on my tongue, the bite of sharp cheddar cheese. One of the main reasons I work out so much is my love of food. I'll never be a slim, trim size 0 or 2 because I really enjoy eating. I could live in the gym all day, every day, and it still wouldn't be enough - but it's a start. It's a sensual thing, that enjoyment of food, the delight in the creation of a really good meal.
But I'm a food snob - for I love good food. I don't like just any food, and I'm fairly picky about the things I will eat. Aforementioned frosting is an example - I don't like canned frosting or commercial frosting, but will gladly create a Swiss Meringue or marshmallow fluff frosting that would make your mama cry. If I make a cake, you'll love it. It might not be the fanciest thing you've ever seen, but, by God, it's delicious. In the past couple of years, I've really developed a desire to make my own foods. I'm really not happy with commercially prepared, chock full of artificial ingredients and chemical sounding items I can't pronounce and could not replicate if I tried.
Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese would be an exception. That is seriously crack on a spoon.
Having a child with food allergies certainly spurred me in the direction of making many of the foods we eat from scratch, for it's much easier to control the avoidance of those allergens if I'm creating the things that he eats. But I've noticed a welcome benefit to preparing the foods for my family. They taste better, they are healthier and it feeds my need for creativity. It's a priority for me, to make bread and Bolognese sauce, beef brisket and sorbet. To make the foods that feed my family completes me.
I love to eat. I love to cook.