I love to cook. It’s a creative outlet and a good stress reducer. I don’t think about anything else when I’m cooking. I’m addicted to cookbooks too… it’s like cookbook porn… I can’t help but look! And, if you know me from Facebook, I like taking pictures of my food. Naughty girl…
I narrowly avoided buying yet another cookbook at Barnes and Noble the other week. I looked through that section for at least an hour. Here’s the thing, I rarely follow recipes! If I find a recipe that really intrigues me, I will follow it – the first time. Fair game after that… I’m sure to up the garlic factor and the red pepper flakes the next time, at the very least. And as a friend noted, “You can just look recipes up on the internet.” Blasphemy! One of my favorite past times is browsing in a bookstore. Not to say I haven’t pulled some recipes from the net, but I will ALWAYS love my cookbooks and books in general. No Kindles’ in my house!
My mom isn’t sure where this joy of cooking came from because she certainly never enjoyed cooking. She cooked because she had to… and honestly, she doesn’t enjoy eating. I know… How can that be??? We had the staples growing up: fish sticks, spaghetti (out of a can), hamburger steak, chicken pot pies… notice the trend of convenience? Dad did like to cook and would do so on the weekends. It would either be on the grill or a big pot of homemade something… vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings, beef stroganoff…yum … my mouth is watering thinking about it. He liked to try new things. Guessing I take after dad.
Mom’s question to me: Why do you like to cook? I’ve had to think about that. Other than I really like to eat, I enjoy the process. Now let’s get this straight… I like to cook, NOT BAKE…. Baking is a whole other animal. It takes precise measurements and times and I’m anything but precise. HA. I’m a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook. It’s interesting figuring out what goes well together, how some foods really bring out the flavors of other foods and trying all of those wonderful spices. The sauté pan is a blank canvas; the knives and cutting boards my brushes and beautiful vegetables, meats, pastas and spices my paints. Unlike painting though, cooking delights all of the senses. Think of walking into someone’s home and they are cooking … the smell of garlic and onions wafting through the air or waking up in the morning to the rich aroma of bacon and hearing the sizzle and crackle of it cooking. Being greeted at the table with a colorful plate full of summer squash, onions, tomatoes and shrimp invites you in to take a bite and savor all those wonderful flavors mingled together.
And the feeling and memories some meals can invoke. I was excited this past summer when one of the guys at work brought me a bag of home-grown tomatoes, okra and cucumbers. I knew what I was having that night; a good ol’ southern plate of tomatoes and cucumbers with fried okra and fish. Reminds me of my childhood. And soup is one of my favorite things to make- any kind.. chicken noodle, chicken tortilla (my favorite), cabbage soup (just like stuffed cabbage!), zucchini noodle and chicken soup (when I’m trying to cut carbs) are just a few. Soup just warms you up inside and out. What’s more, I can joyfully slurp it for lunch at work!
What’s especially gratifying for me is cooking for others. Watching others savor what I’ve prepared brings a huge smile to my face. Makes me feel good; like receiving a huge hug from someone. I got away from cooking for a while, blending up green drinks and smoothies, but now that I have someone to cook for, I’m truly alive and cooking again! You know the saying… a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!