Can do it all. And modest to boot.

The cooking why

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Sundays are my cooking days.  With my job, its not really feasible to say that I’m going to cook dinner every night, because there are some nights when I don’t get home until 9:30, or I get home at 6:30, and then have dorm duty from 7:15-11:45, so I don’t have time for anything that takes more than 10 minutes.  My solution to this problem is to cook a couple of things on Sunday and have them through the week.  This doesn’t mean I don’t cook at all during the week, but it takes the pressure off so I don’t HAVE to cook in order to have something to eat.

With this in mind, I have had a crazy week and a half with students, parents, administrators, meetings, classes, dorm duty, basketball, etc….so I have been subsisting on the rotisserie chicken from the ACME.  This is a pretty good supplement, but not as fun as something I’ve made myself.  So I actually had two small chickens in my fridge, and decided that it was a perfect time to make chicken soup.  My mom has been making chicken or turkey soup since I can remember and it is my all time favorite ‘mom’ recipe.  I called my mom to confirm a few things and then set about my business.  I set the chicken bodies in a pot and just about covered them with cold water and set it on the stove to boil, uncovered.  Once it had boiled for a few I turned it down to simmer, covered and went to the grocery store.  I was also making pork tenderloin (another post to come, dear readers) so I had a bunch of stuff to get.

Once I was home and going through the process of tasting the stock to get it just right (too much water…Shit…not enough water…etc…) and picking all the gross crap out (bones, et al…) I started thinking about all sorts of stuff.  Most people when they find out I am a culinary dork, ask me what I cook.  I tell them pretty much everything, however I have never really thought about WHY I cook.  This sort of struck me that I had never thought about it before.  I have always liked to cook, but never really thought about why I like to.  So as I was elbow deep in chicken parts (a sexy picture, I know) I thought about it.  Here is what I have come up with:

I cook because its fun.  There is nothing more exciting to me than when I get a new recipe right and get to watch my friends or family make the ‘holy god this is good’ face when they take that first bite.  I am the total cliche chic who turns her music up loud, and dances around the kitchen, singing at the top of my lungs as I work my way through a dish, and I am damn proud of it.

I cook because it is a different kind of challenging.  I am challenged daily in my job, whether it be coming up with a new lab, writing a test, dealing with a student that I would like to kick in the shins, figuring out how to sterilize my lab equipment with a pressure cooker because my school doesn’t think we need an autoclave, or one of the other many fun challenges of my life.  However, cooking is more a personal challenge.  The only one who cares if I succeed is me, and I am a pretty tough critic.  It is a mental and physical challenge that also involves a combination of logic and feeling.  I know all the ingredients that go into bread dough by heart, but I can do it four times in a row and have to adjust it differently each time because the dough just doesn’t feel right.

I cook because I can’t afford a therapist.  Some people run, some people drive, I cook.  When I am cooking, it is a time for me to clear my head, think about my life and figure things out.  Many of my problems have been solved by lasagna, or a double chocolate cake.  I think it is because I am not just thinking but also feeling, smelling, tasting, it just helps me clear my head and see things more clearly.  It is a very satisfying feeling to see the conversion of raw, basic ingredients into a complex and (hopefully) delicious meal.

I cook because I can fail in the kitchen.  Hopefully we have all read my post from this summer where I TOTALLY failed frozen pizza, of all things.  I have never been a person who is really afraid of failure, since failure is just another way to learn, however when I fail in my daily life, others are affected.  If I write a bad test, my kids have to suffer through taking it.  If I do my job poorly, my coworkers have to pick up the slack.  If I burn frozen pizza because I’m functionally retarded and can’t think to remove the cardboard before I put it in the oven…well thats just funny.  If there is a recipe that I continually suck at, then yes I get frustrated, but for the most part if I tank it on a recipe, so what?

Finally, I cook because I am a happy fat kid.  I love food.  Its not just the act of eating that I enjoy, but the power that food seems to have.  Obviously as a scientist I appreciate the energy side of food, however I am constantly amazed at the social power food holds.  Food can bring a family together, it can comfort, it can apologize, and the list goes on.  I had a group of girls in my apartment baking a cake the other day, and just the act of baking made them feel more at home.  All of a sudden, they were all telling stories about home, who they cook with, and what they make.  It was nice to see that one hour and a cake mix could make them feel more comfortable and content with being away from home.

Basically food is amazing, and I love being a part of something that is so steeped in tradition and emotion.

I had not really thought about this in-depth in the past, and trying to answer the ‘why’ of cooking was a really cool thing for me.

And now, a challenge:

Have you ever thought about it?  For some of you it might just be pure necessity, for others it might be more complex, but either way, I’d love to hear it.

WHY do you cook?


5 Comments on “The cooking why”

  1. 1 Johanna said at 11:46 am on November 9th, 2009:

    This is a fascinating, and wonderful question. Jesse and I were actually just talking about it the other night, over dinner, actually. I think that I cook because it’s therapy. I am never stressed when I’m cooking. While I’m baking? Sometimes. When people are asking me how they can help and what they can do and I’m trying to figure out how to tell them to back the fuck up and let me be? Sure. But when I am actively cooking, following those processes in the kitchen that I know by heart, like dicing an onion or sauteeing it in butter until it starts to let off some liquid, or browning meat or frying chicken….. I am not stressed. I am not worried. I display a confidence WHILE cooking that I never display in the rest of my life – not even in the actual product of the cooking.
    As much as I love to eat, (and if you doubt me just ask Alyssa’s mom about how much I eat) I love cooking more. I sometimes feel like I’ve absorbed so much of the food in the making, that the eating is just…. a little meh.

    I love to make people happy, which is why I feed people. But I cook because it makes ME happy.

  2. 2 Alyssa said at 1:27 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    Thats such a good way of putting it. Although I actually DO absorbed a lot of the food while I cook…you have to taste for quality ;)
    Thanks Josie!

  3. 3 Rita said at 10:49 pm on November 9th, 2009:

    I think you hit it right on the head, Alyssa! It’s a personal challenge but there’s something soothing about being absorbed in working in the kitchen. “In the zone” if you will. Who cares what else is going on in your life? All that matters at the moment is, does this taste right? Is it coming out ok? And that’s great!

    I also live for the wow factor, making something delicious and pleasing others; even better if it’s something they’ve never had before. Making others happy makes me happy. There are so many good reasons to cook!

  4. 4 Joh's Dad said at 1:58 pm on November 11th, 2009:

    Great question, and some great answers from some amazing young women.

    (…lots of parental pride here today – and my monitor has issues, appears to be underwater for some reason . . .)

    Here’s another perspective.

    Cooking initially was a step on the Self-Sufficiency ladder. Twentysomething, slave wages, apartment, galley kitchen – learn to cook or starve. First few meals didn’t kill me, so maybe I can actually do this.
    Ask mom for an old cookbook. Whoa – there are tastes BESIDES salt and pepper?
    Oopps, guess you can’t boil spaghetti in a pyrex bowl on an electric burner – must remember that.
    First test – invite a friend over for dinner – crock pot chicken and veggies. Recipe from the book in the box – just do what it says. Salmonella averted, friendship preserved. (the beer may have helped…)
    Hibachi for Christmas. Start with burgers and dogs, graduate to chicken, and eventually a steak (major financial investment, don’t screw it up!).
    What’s a marinade? SAY, this is EXCELLENT!! Who knows about this?
    Bigger test – bringing MY chili to the boss’ football party, and watching it disappear.
    Oh, look – it’s that Julia Child show – let’s watch this for a minute… so THAT’s how you chop an onion without bloodloss.
    Biggest test – cooking for a date. “This is good.” [no sarcasm, no pity, she actually seems to like it - WHOOOHOOO!!!]

    It’s the secret handshake that gets you into a very cool club. The personal satisfaction is important, but ultimately, cooking is a skill that must be shared with others to grow to its fullest potential. I can sustain you. Very powerful.

    PGUK have tapped into this (no surprise there), and your manifestations of this power are a treat to share. Many thanks.

  5. 5 Alyssa said at 7:24 pm on November 11th, 2009:

    Great response! Thanks Dad J :)

Leave a Reply