Note to Self:

Friday, September 30, 2011

For the Love of Cooking


If you've been to this blog before you likely know a few things about me. One is that I like to ride bikes (for transportation, yes, but mostly because I enjoy it), another is that I often take pictures of  the sky or flowers and wonder about life (this current incarnation, but also those previous and future), and also that I like to cook and write about what I cook...and it just so happens that I cook for a living. People sometimes ask me if I ever tire of cooking and I most often tell them no, but it's the administrative junk at work that can weigh me down...cooking is the fun part. I'm also sometimes asked if I enjoy cooking at home, and this is always an immediate yes...this is where it is truly enjoyable; a glass of wine at hand and NPR on the radio, sometimes the process is greater than the outcome.

Anyhow this brings me to my point. Home cooking. And I'm wondering how many people still do it. It seems like prepared foods, frozen foods, and take out are taking away the pure joy of home cooking. A simple Internet search found plenty on this: click here, here, here, here, here, or here, to see what I mean. You get the picture. And at the same time some people, while obsessed at what chefs are cooking, cook less for themselves...click here to read a really interesting article.

So what is it, I wonder? I work all day, too, and come home tired...and I even cook for a living, but I still cook for myself. Now, some may say this gives me an advantage, but I don't think it does. Do mechanics come home and work on their own cars all evening (and enjoy it), I wonder? Do house painters come home to enjoy painting their own houses? But this is different. Cooking is a necessity; it's a life skill. I enjoy cooking at home for many reasons.

Let me also qualify this by saying that I am not immune to somewhat frequent takeout foods (my two vices are pizza and Chinese food--the latter being my son's favorite). But for the most part I eat my meals at home which I've cooked for myself...and sometimes even for only myself. It doesn't have to be a big deal; it's easy to make a really good meal out of the most simple ingredients. Case-in-point, tonight's dinner (pictured above). My son was home tonight, but he is nursing a cold (as am I) and he chose to eat leftover Chinese take out (told you it was his favorite...he is an American teenager). Anyhow, this is what I made for myself.

The main part of the meal was brown rice cooked with pork. Sort of a toned down version of arroz con puerco. But in the rice I also included broccoli and green beans which--believe-it-or-not--are still growing in the garden. This is really the only thing I actually cooked tonight; everything else was in my fridge or cupboard. Also on the plate were refrigerator pickles, that were made from cucumbers and peppers that my next-door neighbor gave me, pickled beets, which were made from beets that someone also had given me, kim-chee, which was made from cabbage and peppers that were grown in my own garden, yogurt that was made in my own kitchen, and whole wheat kamut bread which I made at work (OK, there's the advantage) and carried home on my bike.

The point is, I suppose, that if you cook often you'll not only get better at it and enjoy it more, but you'll also have good stuff in your fridge to augment what you are making. It's a lifestyle but also life for us humans in general.

As I was typing these previous words I realized that this almost sounds boastful...but it is intended to be just the opposite. This is not fancy-shmancy chef-made cuisine, this is food your grandmother may have made...good wholesome food that is good and rewarding to make and really good and enjoyable to eat.

Food and cooking is good, really good. We should enjoy it...not only when we're eating it but also while we're making it. We should cook and we should cook often...as if our lives depended on it. I'll get off my little soapbox now.

3 comments:

LIVE TO EAT said...

This is a great post, Joe because it carries a message of even greater importance. Cooking meals at home. Especially if you live alone. Today we have access to locally grown, raised and produced foods, and they are readily available.

I truly enjoy dining in restaurants and have gotten to know so many chefs, that I know I could never cook for a living. It is very hard work no matter how much one loves to cook. But I do love to cook at home, and I made a point to learn how to cook. I read cookbooks that teach technique which helped me to learn the methods of cooking. This has given me even more respect for the professional chef.

I cook at home because it is relaxing and I get a kick out of the fact that I made a meal that tastes delicious. I respect the food I'm cooking with, and it shows in the final product.

Thanks for writing this post!

Joe said...

Thanks Michael!

Pangolin said...

Back when I used to work restaurant kitchens I would still mostly cook at home for my self and whoever was in my household. That is, two or three cooked meals every day for whoever was around. People do not get it but they always eat whatever I make.

I simply can't eat cold cereal in the morning. If I'm not eating eggs on tortillas it's because I've made buckwheat pancakes, or congee, or I'm having leftover lentil soup with toast and a pickled egg.

I like the sound of that meal. My current roommates woud have a fit if I made kim-chee though.

Try cubano pork; throw about 1-1/2 lbs of leftover pork roast into a pot along with a cup of mild passilla chile powder, two chopped bananas (funky, spotted, yellow bananas work great) a chopped onion, garlic, thyme and tamarind, Simmer 2-3 hours until the roast falls apart and the bananas melt. Serve over rice.