I have read several times that to be able to come up with a really delicious meal, you have to put a great deal of love into your cooking. Of course, it sounded like an old-fashioned quote. But when I took cooking quite seriously, I was able to understand the truth to this.
I come from a family of women who were wonderful cooks. I loved to eat, but I mostly focused on school as I was growing up, so the kitchen was not really my domain. My mother did a very great job at satisfying our palates, so it seemed like a tough competition to enter her turf.
My maternal grandmother and all of her daughters were magnificent cooks as well. Special occasions meant a feast that consisted of different kinds of dishes that you could imagine. Desserts were of varying kinds too. I loved those meals, but since my father was so used to very good food prepared for him even at his very young age, the more that it scared me to even try to cook something that he would try to taste.
I never really took any initiative at it. It just seemed difficult, and perhaps, it was easier to come up with an excuse than to try. My best one was that it wasn’t just my area. And I became quite known for that in the family: one of the few women who did not cook. The few of us had a running joke that we needed a recipe even just to boil water.
Now, I have my own family. Initially, I would cook because no one else would do it. You could say it was more of a chore than anything else. I would consult cook books for simple recipes, or if the interest was there, I would go on-line to see how a dish should be prepared.
Yeah, my cooking came out all right. Not too bad. But to my own opinion, bordering to yucky sometimes. My husband and son would not really complain. It was just ok. Nothing spectacular about it though.
Since last year, I have been corresponding with an old friend. This was my best friend in 3rd grade. She dabbles in a lot of cooking and baking, and has been earning by selling her cookies, blueberry loaves and her lasagnas.
I asked her one time on how to prepare a simple dish. She gladly shared with me some how-to’s and important steps in cooking that dish. But what was interesting was how she used a lot of metaphors on her instructions. She said that it was necessary “to wait for the aroma to envelope you”, or “to let the flavors marry”.
I felt a little funny reading her words. I thought she really does take her cooking a little too seriously. But on the other hand, somehow, those “magical, poetic words” felt good to my spirit. They inspire. They move.
I have been enjoying my moments in the kitchen lately. It is still a chore for me, because I know at the back of my head, that if I do not cook, we would end up ordering pizza. But I do feel a sense of fondness for it, knowing that my boys have been appreciating my efforts, and that yes, my dishes are earning very high points from them now.
I smile a little every time I cook now. Because I could hear myself saying “go, flavors….marry each other”, or “slow cooking…slow but sure….patience is a virtue”. It is more than just a chore. I feed these mouths, I reach out to them. These have been fruits of my labor, and I do it because I love them. It’s more than the physical bodies that I want to nourish. It is a simple way of touching the life of a person you love.
A long time ago I have read a poem once that said something about all the nice emotions that you need to give when you cook. Add a dash of sweetness…a sprinkle of love. Well, you can’t really buy these from the groceries. The spices section does not carry this at all.. It’s all in you — in all the love that you can give.
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But to have the food to feed his stomach, you have to concoct something that comes from your heart.