February 20, 2010

Why I Cook

Inspired by a post and tweet by Michael Ruhlman, along with his compelling reason that 'writing it down forces you to know what you think' (which is true for any subject, not just cooking/food), below I list the reasons why I cook:

• I like to eat

• I like to eat good food

• I want and need to feed myself and my family tasty and (mostly) nutritious, healthy food in the most economical way possible (though we still enjoy eating out)

• I like variety in my food

• I like to recreate great dishes that I first tasted somewhere else (a restaurant, a friend's house, etc.) or the ones from my childhood (I teared up the first time I watched that scene from Ratatouille when Anton Ego's snobbish-food-critic demeanor melted away as his first bite of Remy's ratatouille instantly took him back to his childhood when his mother comforted him with her homemade one. What a brilliant scene! Comfort + Food + Childhood = One Emotional Wallop).

• Some of my favorite dishes/food aren't available in nearby restaurants/food vendors/stores. (That's why I learned to make mayonnaise and a Thai dish).

• It's relaxing

• I like the taste of accomplishment (ehm) after I cook a dish/meal: it's tangible and something I can truly savor (ehm), and it's quite immediate (less than 30 minutes for most dishes, a couple of hours for a few, but not weeks, months or years!), and other people can also enjoy it (which is another accomplishment in itself).

• It's one of my creative outlets. Yes, I read recipes, but I hardly ever follow it to the dot. I'd tweak things along the way. Once I know a basic recipe/technique, I'd experiment with it.

• In general, I like to know how things are made, what's the process of things becoming what they are — whether it's a dish, products, people, events, etc. Cooking explores that aspect of food. Cooking is the journey.

• I can learn about cultures and society, both my own and others. I like how Anthony Bourdain expresses a similar sentiment when an American-Egyptian chef pointed out food from his ethnic heritage and said "Look. The history of the world" — to which Bourdain remarks in his typical jaded (but accurate) way,
"He had just put in extraordinarily succinct terms what any well traveled eater, student of ethnic or national food ways – or serious food nerd has come to know: that what is on your plate, the choice or selection, or preferences – or ingredients – almost any place you are eating, are the end result of movements of people and resources, the punch line of a story usually involving (at some point in history), deprivation, starvation, colonialism, slavery, greed, and warfare. ... The end result of the above — at least (and only) as far as cuisine — is more often than not, good."

That's all I can think so far.

Well. Why do (or don't) you cook?

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